Shek O

End of the road for barbecue rental stalls on Shek O Beach? Hong Kong government orders operators to vacate land

Move sparks calls for a compromise as businesses which date back to the 1920s are popular with beachgoers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 10:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 11:33pm

After decades of providing beachgoers with rental barbecue facilities, tables and chairs, the sun may have set on these vendors on Hong Kong’s Shek O Beach as they face an order to vacate government-owned land. 

The stalls currently occupy a strip on the eastern side of the beach and all of them were closed when the Post visited on Thursday. 

Tables and chairs were tucked away under a canopy. Sources said the shelter was built by stall operators.

According to a letter issued by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department that the Post obtained, operators of the stalls were asked to remove their property and vacate four days earlier on Monday.

The letter, which was issued in late January, stated that operators could face a fine of HK$500,000 (US$63,900) and six months in jail if they failed to comply and continued occupying government land.

“If the occupancy does not stop in accordance with the notice, the department can take over any property or structure on the land,” the letter read.

In a 2012 report, the Audit Commission slammed the Lands Department for failing to take effective action against unauthorised occupation of government land.

Southern district councillor Chan Lee Pui-ying confirmed that she was approached for help regarding the situation on Shek O Beach.

“It is on government land. I understand that they have operated there for quite some time. But there were complaints so perhaps the government has to take action,” she said.

Chan said she would follow up on the matter but admitted that it was a difficult case.

Source said four families ran the stalls and some were set up as early as the 1920s.

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Beachgoers, especially families, would chairs, tables and barbecue pits from the stalls. On a typical weekend, dozens of visitors were spotted using the services. 

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department also manages 39 barbecue pits on the beach, but residents said the number was not enough to meet demand. 

The fight for public pits led to arguments and even brawls in the past, locals said.

Paul Zimmerman, also a Southern district councillor, said the government could consider leasing out the area on short term tenancy for such rental services.

“The stalls are a real asset to the community in Shek O,” he said. “They are loved by people.”

The stalls are a real asset … They are loved by people
Paul Zimmerman, Southern district councillor

He said a storage facility for surfers near the Big Wave Bay Beach also faced a similar problem, as it was on a parcel of government land.

A Shek O visitor, surnamed Li, said the stalls provided an additional activity for beachgoers.

“People don’t just come to Shek O for swimming. As a child I came specifically to have barbecues,” Li, 25, said.

The closure of the stalls, he said, would not deter him from coming back to the area. 

The Shek O BBQ Pits Operator’s Union said it had no comment for the time being except that it was in discussions with the government and wished to “work quietly with them to find a solution”.

A spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) confirmed on Friday night that complaints had been made against the stalls, leading to the department issuing the letter in January asking operators to “cease unlawful occupation.”

“As stated in the letters, if the operators fail to complete necessary action by the deadline, LCSD would, in consultation with relevant departments, take enforcement actions,” he said, without elaborating further.

In late 2016, Lotus Pond Temple at Ngong Ping was found to have occupied some 17,000 sq ft of adjacent government land without authorisation. The Lands Department took enforcement action.