No formal reasons yet for seizure of military vehicles in Hong Kong, Singapore’s defence ministry says
It added Hong Kong’s customs officials hoped to finish investigation soon
More than a week after a shipment of armoured troop carriers belonging to Singapore was impounded by Hong Kong customs, the city state’s Ministry of Defence said on Thursday it had yet to be given a formal explanation as to why the military vehicles were seized in the first place.
The defence ministry also noted that Hong Kong customs officials hoped to complete their investigation soon, amid escalating diplomatic tensions between China and Singapore.
Customs and Excise Department officials met shipping company APL executives on Thursday to discuss the impounding of the nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and associated equipment. APL was hired by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to deliver the shipment back to the city state after the armoured cars were used for training in Taiwan.
“Formal reasons for the detention of the Terrex ICVs were not yet provided but customs officials hoped to complete their investigation soon,” Singapore’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement released on Thursday.
“We have advised APL to give its full cooperation to the Hong Kong authorities in order to expedite the recovery of SAF’s assets.”
The ministry added that Hong Kong customs had put security guards on duty round the clock at the depot in Tuen Mun where the military vehicles are currently being kept.
On Thursday, the customs department said the case was under investigation and that no further information was available. APL was similarly tight lipped, only saying: “We are unable to provide details of the ongoing discussion.”
The row started when the vehicles and component parts were confiscated by customs officers at the Kwai Chung container terminal last Wednesday.
Sources said the shipment was impounded by local customs as the shipping company had failed to provide the required permits for bringing the military vehicles to Hong Kong.
Under Hong Kong’s Import and Export Ordinance, a licence is required for the import, export, re-export or transshipment of strategic commodities. The maximum penalty for failing to obtain a licence is an unlimited fine and seven years’ imprisonment.
Local authorities were also said to be investigating whether the armoured cars and components stored in 12 shipping containers were declared in full detail in the cargo manifest. Importing unmanifested cargo into the city carries a maximum penalty of a seven-year jail term and a HK$2 million fine.
Hong Kong’s FactWire news agency reported the APL container ship had docked in the mainland port of Xiamen [廈門] before heading to Hong Kong. It reported that mainland agents had tipped off Hong Kong Customs about the vehicles, contradicting earlier reports about the discovery being made during a routine inspection.
China’s foreign ministry lodged a diplomatic protest with Singapore on Monday over the controversy, demanding that it respect the one-China principle. Observers said the protest was a warning to both Singapore and Taiwan, as the city state’s decades-old practice of carrying out military exercises in Taiwan has long angered Beijing.
In response to the diplomatic protest, Singapore reassured Beijing it would not deviate from the one-China principle.
On Wednesday, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said: “Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. We resolutely oppose any nation having official contact and military connections with Taiwan.”