A group of Sai Kung residents are calling for more warning about officially sanctioned wild pig hunts after they were left terrified by a group of armed men who descended on Nam Shan Village at dusk last week.
Only four small signs tied to roadside railings and barely visible in the dim light gave a hint of what was happening on Monday.
"Live Shooting Area", they read. The men, as residents learned later, had been authorised by the government to use live ammunition to hunt wild boars in the neighbourhood. But few in the area around the Nam Shan pavilion and bus stop had any idea bullets would be fired not far from where amahs walked children home from school.
"No barriers were erected to stop members of the public from entering the live firing area," said Karina O'Carroll, a Sai Kung resident for more than 20 years. "There were numerous points farther up the hill [where the men walked] that weren't marked with warning signs. They were [creating] a line of fire that [people] could have walked through, say, with their dogs. When shots were fired, no one had any clue what was going on."
No police were present and when people approached the armed men - some of whom were wearing masks - to ask what they were doing, they became aggressive, residents said. It was not clear why the men needed to hide their identities.
The firing area was directly next to the main road into the village. O'Carroll said residents were walking along the road with their dogs; helpers were taking children home from school; and drivers were passing in their cars and public minibuses - all within range of the shotguns and rifles.
A spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department confirmed two groups of civilian volunteers had been authorised to hunt wild pigs. Members must have special permits issued by the department under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance and arms licences issued by the police.
"Several complaints related to wild pigs had been received since December 2012," she said. "The pigs had consistently caused damage to personal property. Preventive measures such as erection of fences were not applicable … The operation followed all necessary [legal] requirements."
Friends of Sai Kung chairman Guy Shirra said officials should review how the issue was managed. He called for "adequate notice to the public given through established channels and local groups. The bilingual notices I have seen make no mention of AFCD official activity."