A privately owned land parcel in the border town of Shau Tau Kok should belong to Hong Kong, but Shenzhen authorities have a different understanding of the boundary, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said.
During the Chief Executive’s Question Time at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Lam said the land in question, measuring 21,000 square feet, is within Hong Kong’s territory after the SAR government checked relevant aerial photos of the site, conducted on-site visits, and met with mainland officials, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
A Chinese garrison is suspected of having occupied the land parcel, which it enclosed in a wire mesh fence and turned into a farm without the owners’ permission, investigative news agency FactWire said in a report on Sunday.
The land in question is about 900 meters northwest of the Sha Tau Kok Immigration Control Point and adjacent to the Sha Tau Kok River, which borders Hong Kong and Shenzhen, FactWire said.
The 13th Company of the Guangdong Border Defence Corps Sixth Detachment is stationed right across the river and there is a concrete bridge connecting the garrison in Shenzhen to a big tract of woodland on the Hong Kong side of Sha Tau Kok.
Lam told lawmakers that Hong Kong officials met their Shenzhen counterparts on Tuesday to clarify the demarcation line, following an interdepartmental meeting hosted by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung to discuss the issue a day earlier.
However, authorities from both sides have differing views of the demarcation of the border along Sha Tau Kok River.
Lam said Order of the State Council No. 221, issued in 1997 to set out Hong Kong SAR’s boundary, states that the demarcation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen is the middle line of the river channel.
Sha Tau Kok River has not changed its course, based on the government officials’ recent onsite inspections and aerial photos taken over the years.
However, Shenzhen authorities, while understanding Hong Kong’s position, believe that the boundary line should be redefined after they realigned the river in 2013 to prevent flooding, similar to what had been done for the redevelopment of the Lok Ma Chau Loop area, Lam said.
The chief executive said that since the government has not been aware of the river realignment, it still holds the view that the land in question belongs to the HKSAR, adding that the government does not plan to affirm the realignment work.
In its report, FactWire said Google’s satellite images of the area show that the Sha Tau Kok River originally ran along the border in 2010, but the river bent southwards into Hong Kong territory, creating a U-shaped section in 2012. This is around the time when the farm was built by the Chinese border corps garrison.
Lam said both sides were willing to further discuss the issue and that the SAR government will seek legal advice whenever it is possible.
She added that Shenzhen authorities have agreed to stop using the land to allay public concerns while both sides work towards reaching a consensus.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong said she was so surprised that the government had had no knowledge of the land occupancy over the years, adding that she was wondering why police officers patrolling the border had failed to notice it.
Chan said the mainland has been taking away Hong Kong land little by little in breach of the Basic law and the State Council Order, just like what has been seen in the co-location arrangement for the Express Rail Link, which enabled mainland authorities to take up an area in the West Kowloon terminus to enforce their laws.
Council Front lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said aerial photos taken by the Lands Department between 2013 and 2017 showed the government had used the post-realignment river course to define the border and excluded the occupied land from Hong Kong before revising it to be what it originally was this year.
Chu asked the Development Bureau to provide an explanation.
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