Along a quiet trail in a country park, a young couple enjoy the tranquillity of the woodlands. Suddenly, out of the trees leaps a terrifying figure clad in camouflage uniform, face daubed with imitation mud, a bulky firearm held with menace. The armed invader pulls the trigger. The girl feels a sharp pain in her stomach. She's been shot. Fortunately, the weapon is an air gun. The lead pellet goes through her T-shirt, raises a welt on her body but does not penetrate the skin. Before the couple can react, the uniformed gunman has run back into the bush. Welcome to the world of irresponsible louts who play war games. These weekend Rambos are devastating some areas of the Hong Kong countryside. They run amok like marauding vandals, terrorising people trying to enjoy nature, destroying abandoned villages and making some locations virtually no-go areas. The authorities seem powerless to control these hoodlums clad in jungle green. Strangely, many of these gun-toting freaks are highly paid professionals from finance, media and commercial backgrounds. While they excuse their rural exploits as harmless fun, the weekend warriors take great pains to don goggles and other protective clothing; the powerful weapons they use can easily put out an eye. There are no such safeguards, of course, for members of the public who may inadvertently stroll into the crossfire of one of their battles. In some parts of the New Territories, notably around Sai Kung and Pat Sin Leng, the rampaging hordes have caused great damage. The Catholic Church is having to erect a fence about the newly renovated St Joseph's Church on Yim Tin Tsai island, off Sai Kung, because war-gamers have turned the deserted village into a battle zone. In Shalotong, village representative Cheung Tin-fok has complained to the Home Affairs Department about the regular weekend invasions. 'They go into empty houses to play war games and trespass on private property,' he says. 'No action has been taken.' Conservation photographer James Wong Ming, of the Sai Kung Association, says one favoured spot for rival armies to play out their fantasies is around Yung Shue O at Three Fathoms Cove. Villages have rented out disused farmland as a war-game site, which on some weekends swarms with players shooting their potentially dangerous weapons. 'There is no protective measure, not even a warning sign,' he says. Environmentalists have complained to police about war-gamers turning a valley at She Tau Tsuen, near Tai Mong Tsai, into a battleground. As well as the danger to humans, the marksmen threaten more than 100 species of birds. Nature lovers contend many of the weapons have been illegally modified and made much more powerful than is legally permitted; they point to soft drink cans which lead pellets have penetrated. If projectiles go through a layer of tin, think what they can do to an eyeball. The founder of the Tai Po Environmental Protection Group, Yau Wing-kwong, tells of make-believe commandos jumping from roofs of village houses. 'This pastime is extremely dangerous and intrusive,' he says. Ken Ng On-yeung, of Mountain and Stream, teaches youth leaders and social workers how to safely lead young people on hikes and camping expeditions. He says some war-gamers ignore the safety of others in country parks. Police are growing increasingly concerned about irresponsible war-gamers. They have no objections to bank clerks dressing up like American special forces and prancing about on private land. But when they start pulling ambushes on unsuspecting hikers, police tolerance fades. The problem is, when a uniformed police officer appears, the weekend combatants melt into the undergrowth. There's a solution to this. Send young police officers dressed in shorts, T-shirts and carrying rucksacks, to the country park areas where these irresponsible people stage their mock battles. Get behind them on the track, and call in a uniformed squad. As the would-be Terminators retreat, the casually dressed police can produce warrant cards, seize their weapons and arrest them. There are ample laws to deal with these dangerous clowns; they need only be enforced. There should be zero tolerance for invasive weekend warriors who declare public parks their private battlegrounds.