The Lands Department is being accused of dragging its feet over an illegally occupied government site in Tuen Mun for more than 20 years.
The plot is occupied by businessman Chan Tin-chi who built a three-story structure adjacent to his property, Apple Daily reports.
Chan, a Ten Outstanding Young Persons Selection awardee, and his family live in a house on Castle Peak Road called Villa Cornwall, which is surrounded by a six-metre-tall wire mesh covered in greens, making it hard to see inside from outside the fence.
Apple Daily found that Chan has occupied the adjacent government plot illegally and built the three-story structure on a slope.
The “L-shaped plot” is about 10,000 square feet, Apple Daily reported, citing data from the Lands Department.
Access to the property is through Chan’s villa.
Apple Daily reporters said the building is about 2,000 square feet per floor with multiple rooms and air-conditioning.
The Office of the Ombudsman received complaints that the government land had been illegally used since 1995.
A spokesperson for the Ombudsman said that the Lands Department had found the irregularity in 1995 but had only been able to take action in 2004 after visiting the site more than 11 times.
The case was passed to the New Territories Action Team which is said to have also procrastinated, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
The first warning letter was only sent out in July 2015 and two charges were pressed in 2016 and 2017.
Chan finally replied after 20 years of illegal use and pleaded guilty. He agreed to remove all illegal structures.
Connie Lau Yin-hing from the Ombudsman criticised the Lands Department for repeated delays in prosecuting Chan.
A spokesperson from the Lands Department apologized for the delay, saying they have been swamped with cases with only limited resources to handle them.
The Lands Department hopes to clear the backlog in two to three years.
The New Territories Action Team has received 7,746 complaints since it was established in 2007 but has only gone through 5,351 of them.
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