Eleven youngsters arrested for wax burning in a PLA shooting range over Mid-Autumn Festival

The incident raises questions about the legality of people, including hikers and cyclists, entering what on paper is a closed area, although the gate is often left open

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 September, 2016, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 September, 2016, 10:36pm

The arrest of a group of Mid-Autumn Festival revellers who were burning wax in a People’s Liberation Army shooting range on Castle Peak has raised questions about access to the military facility.

The arrests took place in the early hours of Saturday morning after two people who were taking photos reported to police that they saw fire and heard explosions.

Police arrived at the restricted area of the Tuen Mun shooting range at about 2am and arrested six men and five women, all in their 20s, for allegedly burning wax and entering the restricted area without a permit.

“They were found burning wax when officers arrived in the closed area in the early hours,” a police spokesman said.

The two men who reported the case to police, aged 21 and 25, were also in the restricted area and were detained for questioning. Charges had not been laid at press time.

Local residents and hikers who frequent Castle Peak say the gate to the shooting range is usually open and they had entered the area for years without incident, despite a warning sign that reads “Land Used For Military Purposes. No Trespassing”.

On Saturday, the gate remained open even after the arrests and there were no security guards at the entrance.

A man surnamed Kan, 54, said he had been hiking in the area for the past two years without incident.

He said he had seen police officers guarding the entrance when shooting exercises were taking place inside the range.

‘Bomb shells’

“I do not believe anyone would arrest me for doing something normal,” he said.

Local residents whose ancestors were buried on the hill should be exempted from any restrictions so they could sweep the tombs, Kan said.

There have been previous media reports about hikers picking up bomb shells in the area and ­cyclists using it as a training ground.

A spokesman for the PLA Hong Kong garrison said the Castle Peak range was listed as a military restricted area under the Military Installations Closed Areas Order, and that trespassing without permission could result in a fine of HK$5,000 and two years in jail.

Wax burning, also known as wax boiling, is a traditional form of entertainment which is now discouraged by the government as people could suffer burns.

Criminal offence

The practice sees the heating of candle wax to high temperatures in a container, typically an empty metal mooncake box. Flammable fuel or water is then thrown onto the flames to create spectacular effects.

It has been made a criminal offence to burn wax in public places, with violators facing a maximum penalty of HK$2,000 and 14 days imprisonment.

Despite the risks, there are often wax-burning-related injuries during the Mid-Autumn Festival, although the numbers are declining.

The Hospital Authority said there had not been any admissions by Saturday morning due to wax-burning injuries.