Police have arrested an African suspected of burning down a historic wooden water mill in Cheung Chun Yuen in Yuen Long, allegedly because he thought it was a hindrance, Apple Daily reported Friday.
A district council member called emergency services about a fire at the historic site at about 1 a.m. Thursday.
The blaze was extinguished within 10 minutes.
The main building not damaged, but the meter-tall water mill had been reduced to ashes.
The suspect, identified as a 28-year-old African named Lala, has been living in Hong Kong since 2008 as a torture claimant.
The man was arrested Thursday morning.
Cheung Chun Yuen was built in the 10th year of the reign of Qing dynasty Emperor Xianfeng in 1860 and has been classified as a Grade 1 historic building.
Villagers believed the mill provided them with protection.
Tang Ying-chung, the manager of Cheung Chun Yuen, said Lala made the historic site his home a month and a half ago.
Not only did he damage local residents’ water pipes to tap the water supply, Tang said, the African also sold drugs to young people in Shui Tau village, where the site is located.
Lala was evicted from his previous home in Lo Uk Tsuen for growing marijuana, the report said.
Tang said he had called police and asked them to arrest Lala a dozen times, only for police to reply that there was nothing they could do, because he had refugee status.
Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said the suspect may be charged with arson, criminal damage or burglary.
Luk said there was a good chance he might receive the maximum penalty, as destroying historic relics is a serious crime.
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