Eight Hong Kong activists arrested for daring protest at illegal waste dumping site

Activists have been warning for weeks that nearby residents are in danger as the four-storey mound could collapse

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 March, 2016, 1:47pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 March, 2016, 10:33pm

Eight activists including a lawmaker were arrested yesterday when they entered the site of a massive, illegal mound of waste in Tin Shui Wai and attempted to shovel earth into bags to take to government offices in protest.

The Land Justice League was frustrated by the pace of government action at the site that formed a four-storey mound over an area the size of two football pitches.

It was the group’s second daring stunt over the weekend. On Saturday, it entered the construction site of the controversial high-speed rail link, in Austin, scaled cranes and unfurled banners, calling for the project to be halted.

Lugging shovels, pushcarts and linen sacks, about 20 activists entered the dump site opposite Kingswood Gardens estate at around 7am yesterday. They climbed the mound and erected large banners, including one that read “shame to dumping”. They began filling the sacks with waste.

League member Chu Hoi-dick said to date that the group had not seen the Planning Department “use the Town Planning Ordinance to take enforcement action” over the dump site. Chu was among those arrested.

“This is not an isolated example,” he said. “Across Hong Kong, many illegal dumping cases go unresolved ... If the government keeps ignoring this, we residents will not continue to let the environment be destroyed.” Chu added the protest was an act of civil disobedience.

Police stopped the activists after receiving reports from the site manager, warning them that removing earth from the private site would be tantamount to theft.

After a tense standoff, police arrested five men and one woman for trying to “steal” three bags of earth. Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan arrived to help, but after refusing to leave, was carried away and arrested for disorderly conduct in a public place. Fellow party member Eddie Tse Sai-kit was also arrested for not having his identity card on him.

Lee accused police of using excessive force. “I was explaining our actions to police. I was in a public area,” he said. “I was just sitting and they still lifted me up.”

About two dozen protesters rallied outside Yuen Long police station, slamming the authorities for focusing on the activists and not policing illegal dumping.

All of those arrested were later released later on Sunday after refusing bail. The police force said it retained the right to press charges.

Two weeks ago, the government described the mound as an illegal site formation that was potentially “unstable” and “dangerous”. An order to the landowners to shotcrete the mound with high pressure air and concrete within a week went ignored.

Development secretary Paul Chan Mo-po yesterday said the landowners had been contacted and that serious follow-up action was being taken, adding that “lots of evidence” was to be collected.