【明報專訊】UNAUTHORISED DUMPING in the New Territories (N.T.) and the occupation of government lands for profit have been reported by the media and followed up by government departments recently. All this, however, shows that the authorities have not been enforcing the law in the N.T. vigorously enough. The approach taken by the government can even be regarded as weak.
The latest incident of unauthorised large-scale dumping involves the family members of Lau Wong-fat, former Chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk. A piece of land at Tai Tong, Yuen Long, which is around 200,000 square feet in area, was originally covered in lush green vegetation. However, since 2009, it has been used as a site for filling. The dump is now the size of three standard football pitches, and its highest point is around four metres above the lowest point of the pavement. Trucks, tractors and private cars are parked nearby, giving the site the appearance of a carpark. The filling has continued for seven years. The Planning Department has, on six occasions, issued Infringement Notices and Reinstatement Notices to the people concerned. However, after repeated wrangling over the matter, the dump has kept growing and reached its current size.
As can be seen from what is known, the people concerned in the matter have taken the orders of the Planning Department lightly, agreeing to them outwardly but paying no regard for them. No doubt their actions and attitudes have to do with what they desire. However, judging from its development, we believe that the incident stems from the authorities' giving these people too much freedom, allowing them to employ delaying tactics and exploit loopholes. The Planning Department has repeatedly confirmed that the huge dump at Tai Tong is unauthorised, and has demanded formally that the site be restored to its original state. It has twice imposed an encumbrance on specific lots of the site. The people concerned, nevertheless, have paid no regard for the moderate request of growing grass by the Planning Department.
The lawless state on N.T. land is primarily due to the locals' disregard for the law. They have violated the regulations to make profits. However, the existing regulations and the way the authorities enforce the law are far less strict than they should be. As a result, evil has been left unchecked. Unlawful conduct is happening even more openly and brazenly. The unauthorised large-scale dumping at Tai Tong and Tin Shui Wai and the occupation of government lands at Wang Chau well illustrate the weakness of the government and the arrogance of the locals. In recent years, the locals in the New Territories, when commenting on the ownership and use of land in the district, have even argued that land in the N.T. has been owned by the indigenous inhabitants from the very beginning and they can do whatever they want. That is a twisted logic (and a disregard for the law), employed with the aim of extending infinitely their special privileges. Though the logic is not legally valid, there are a lot of people who believe that it is proof that they are the privileged. This is reflected by their unauthorised use of N.T. land.
It is obvious that the authorities are held in low regard in the New Territories. First, the punishments as stipulated by the law are not severe enough. People are therefore encouraged to exploit the loopholes for profit. The government has to conduct a comprehensive review of the related regulations and revise them so as to create a deterrent effect and make people who violate the regulations pay a price. Second, the government has to reevaluate the manpower of related departments. An input of resources is needed to make sure that there are enough staff to enforce the law effectively and strictly and correct the ways N.T. lands are used currently.