A drug rehabilitation school on Lantau has accused the Marine Department of picking on it by cutting off the only way of getting to and from its remote campus.
The Christian Zheng Sheng College used an unlicensed sampan to ferry pupils, teachers and volunteers after it realised a government-funded and approved boat was unusable.
But on Thursday, the department sent three boats to surround the illegal sampan in the middle of the sea linking the Cheung Chau pier and the Zheng Sheng campus at Ha Keng, Chi Ma Wan.
The Zheng Sheng management claimed the department was suppressing the school.
"We are also taking the failed ferry plan to the Ombudsman," said Zheng Sheng Association chief executive Jacob Lam Hay-shing. The association runs the city's only secondary school that rehabilitates teenage drug users.
A department spokeswoman said Thursday's operation stemmed from complaints of illegal operation and overloading. Officers found one of the sampans - which had a capacity of eight people - carrying 18.
Lam said: "We have no choice but to take the illegal sampans because the relevant government departments have been unable to solve our transport problem properly."
He said Zheng Sheng had bought a HK$900,000 boat using funds from the Security Bureau's narcotics division and had secured the Marine Department's approval, but it turned out the boat could not be operated.
"Now, the sampans have been confiscated … and no operator is willing to help us," Lam said. "We have to paddle rubber boats to get to school."