Singapore issues sixth call for Hong Kong to return nine military vehicles seized by customs
‘We await a full resolution of this matter,’ Lion City’s defence ministry says in latest statement
Singapore has reiterated its call for the release of nine armoured military vehicles that have been held by Hong Kong customs for a month.
On Friday night the Lion City’s Ministry of Defence issued its sixth statement on the issue, saying the country was still waiting for a full explanation about the impounding of the armoured troop carriers.
Video explainer: What’s going on with the Singaporean military vehicles seized in Hong Kong
“Over the past three weeks, the Singapore Government has communicated its formal position to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the detention of SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and associated equipment by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department,” the statement read.
“We await a full resolution of this matter and return of our property by the Hong Kong SAR Government.”
The vehicles, which are being kept at the customs cargo examination facility in Tuen Mun, were found by Hong Kong customs on November 23 in 12 containers en route to Singapore from the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung without the appropriate permits.
The vehicles, which were not “specifically” declared in the cargo manifest, had been used in a military exercise on the island. It was Hong Kong’s biggest seizure of “strategic commodities” in two decades.
In response to the Post’s inquiries on when the vehicles would be released, the customs department remained tight-lipped.
“The case is under investigation and no further information is available,” a spokesman said.
Singapore was rebuked by Beijing for maintaining military ties with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province.
The incident further strained ties between China and Singapore that had been tested in recent months, particularly over the disputed South China Sea.
In response to the city state’s demand for an explanation, on December 7 Beijing reiterated its call for Singapore to respect the one-China policy and abide by Hong Kong law.
The office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong revealed in a statement on December 16 that commissioner Song Zhe had met the new consul general of Singapore to Hong Kong, Foo Teow Lee, on December 5 and briefed her on Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong and the current situation in the city.
“The two sides exchanged views on China-Singapore relations and business cooperation and cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and Singapore,” the statement read.
But it did not mention if the armoured vehicles were on the discussion table.
Importing unmanifested cargo is a violation of Hong Kong’s Import and Export Ordinance and carries a maximum penalty of a seven-year jail term and HK$2 million fine, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
The source said the shipping company involved had a duty to declare the type of goods on board its vessel and that “the case will be handled in accordance with the laws”.
It is understood that the shipping company hired by the Singaporean army, APL, had met custom officers at least three times since the seizure.
Under the 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.