PLA gun practice disturbs Fanling neighbours

Military practice sessions in Fanling, possibly using heavy weapons, rock nearby estates and draw complaints of sleep disruptions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 6:42am

Fanling residents are calling on the People's Liberation Army to stop nighttime military exercises at its San Wai Barracks, saying stepped-up firing practice is keeping them from sleeping.

Residents of the Belair Monte estate said activity had increased at the barracks, which are about a kilometre away.

Instead of small-weapons practice, the PLA has turned in the past two weeks to what lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan describes as heavy-weapons fire.

"The windows were shaking, and residents could even feel the vibrations [when sitting] on a sofa," Chan said.

"We have no idea what exactly the army is doing down there, but it seems they are practising [with] some kind of heavy weapons."

The sessions would last for 20 to 30 minutes, residents said.

Chan said the neighbourhood went through a similar problem in April and May last year, and it could be tied to the barracks' open days. "They like to rehearse before welcoming visitors."

The lawmaker sent a letter about residents' concerns to the PLA a year ago and it stopped late-night exercises about a week after his request. But the problem has flared up again, and Chan wants the army to consider a long-term solution, such as moving the heavy-weapons fire away from residential areas.

"The Hong Kong government has no say in military activities, but the army has been considerate in maintaining a low profile."

Fanling district councillor George Pang Chun-sing said Belair Monte was only one of the estates affected by the shooting.

"The villages at Lung Yuek Tau are even closer to the barracks. They are only about 500 metres away," Pang said.

The councillor has received complaints that military exercises started at 8am and continued after 10pm. Children were scared by the sound, he said.

"Some residents were awakened … in the morning. They thought a war was going on. At night, they saw something glowing being fired into the sky."

Before the handover, the British army used the grounds at San Wai for practice. However, they kept to small guns and never used anything heavier, he said.

Lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, a deputy to the National People's Congress, said he had raised the problem with the PLA.


Harbourfront land grant to PLA comes under fire

Concerned groups and members of the public hit out yesterday at the government's insistence on surrendering a prime piece of harbourfront land in Central to the People's Liberation Army.

The government says it must allocate the 3,000-square-metre site to the PLA under a 1994 Sino-British agreement, but that the land will be open to the public when it is not in use.

In February the government applied to the Town Planning Board to rezone the site, on a 150-metre stretch of the harbourfront near the PLA barracks, from open space to military use.

A public forum run by lobby group Professional Commons at Polytechnic University heard calls for public access to be based in law.

"Unless officials' words [have a] legal basis, [the arrangement] is not reliable," said Winston Chu Ka-sun, an adviser to the Society for Protection of the Harbour. "The law has to say clearly that the pier should be enjoyed by the public. It is absolutely impossible when it becomes a military base."

He said Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po's promise to keep the site open when the PLA was not using it would mean nothing after the minister's term in office ended.

Jolie Ho