20th July, 2014
Hong Kong Government Ceded Land to PLA
People’s Liberation Army was given a plot of 100,000 sq. ft. land in Tai Mo Shan by the Hong Kong SAR Government since three years ago to secretly build military used radar facilities and barrack, which are guarded by the PLA. This information, however, had never been in the public domain. Lawmakers and public organisations were shocked about this discovery, condemning the government for giving up Hong Kong’s soil to the PLA which violates the spirit of “One Country, Two Systems”. They also worry that given this precedent, PLA can continue to build more military facilities across government lands which will have direct impact on the freedom and safety of Hongkongers. The PLA said, however, that it will not reveal anything further because of military secrets.
Tai Mo Shan’s radar station is located in government land. Civil Aviation Department and the Observatory have confirmed in 1997 and 1999 respectively that there are two sphere shaped radar facilities in the site which was used to monitor aviation travel and weather. However, according to Lands Department’s images, an unknown sphere shaped radar facility was erected in 2011 which is joined by two buildings and a basketball ground. Both Observatory and Civil Aviation Department had their mouths shut when asked about this new unknown facility and claimed that they do not know who this facility belongs to.
Around 2.6km along MacLehose Trail, one can see the radar station on top of Tai Mo Shan, which is surrounded by metal fences. A check point is set up at the entrance as permission is required for entry. A restricted zone sign is erected at the gate saying that photography and sketching are prohibited inside the area. Inside the gate sits the unknown radar station, that looks just like the ones belonged to the Observatory and Civil Aviation Department. However, a number of surveillance cameras are installed outside this radar, all the windows of this station are covered with tinned films, and buzzing sound coming out from the station which resembles pieces of metal rubbing against each other.
Staff in military uniforms were wondering around inside the premise, and some carrying lunch boxes. From the windows of the other three-storey high brand new building in the site, one can see PLA’s promotional posters are displayed in the corridors which featured PLA badge, simplified Chinese slogans and photos of PLA officers.
Two security guards in management company uniform stationed outside the premise said that the site is a PLA barrack and entry is forbidden. They also said that the “some of the three radar stations below to the Observatory, some belong to the PLA”, suggesting that if one wants to visit one should apply from the government. According to the public information provided by the government the plot of land where PLA’s radar station and auxiliary facilities amounts to at least 100,000 sq. ft.
There are altogether 19 military sites in Hong Kong at present, besides the Military Berth in Central, the rest of these sites are transferred from the British Army to PLA Hong Kong Garrison as Military Installations Closed Area (MICA), based on the 1994 Sino-British Defence Land Agreement. However, the radar station in Tai Mo Shan is not mentioned in the list. According to the Lands Department’s information, the site of this radar station is labelled as government land allocation but not MICA. Since the handover in 1997, the government had never announced the construction of this PLA radar station nor the barrack in Tai Mo Shan. Lawmakers requested the Security Bureau to provide the details of all MICAs in Hong Kong last October, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok did not mention the Tai Mo Shan radar station in his response.
Lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok is shocked to hear about this, “(I) have never heard of this (barrack)!” Chan also added that neither the Defence Land Agreement nor the PLA Garrison Law allows PLA to expand its MICA, criticised the government for rocking One Country, Two Systems.
Is the Hong Kong SAR Government allowed to permit PLA to establish “secretive base” in this plot of land? What is the purpose of this facility? PLA Hong Kong Garrison responded that because detail information about this facility is military secret it is not appropriate for disclosure. 30 minutes after PLA’s response, Secretary Bureau responded to our enquiry saying that “the PLA Hong Kong Garrison has already responded to the enquiry, we (Hong Kong SAR Government) have nothing further to add.”
The 19 PLA military facilities that are known to the public, including the Central Military Berth which is currently under construction, were transferred to the PLA Hong Kong Garrison by the British Army based on the 1994 Defence Land Agreement. The Tai Mo Shan radar station is not included in these 19 facilities and the Hong Kong SAR Government had never informed the public about the facility. Albert Lai Kwong-tak, Chairman of The Professional Commons, pointed out that this radar station is located in an area that is not regulated by Town Planning Ordinance, which allows the government to give land to the PLA. He worries that the authority may continue to use the loophole of government land allocation to allow the PLA to continue building yet more military facilities in other parts of Hong Kong.
Town Planning Bureau Board recently allocated the Central Promenade to the PLA for building its military berth despite the public outcry. Lai explained that land use in Hong Kong is regulated by Town Planning Ordinance, land lease and Building Ordinance, but given that the Tai Mo Shan radar station is located in the land within draft outlining zone plan, it did not require Town Planning Board to repurpose land use as military land, like the Central Berth. In addition, because the radar station is located in government land, traditionally, there is no need for the Legislative Council to approve the management and use of the land. The Building Ordinance also does not apply on military facilities, “by law, there is no way to regulate this facility”.
Lai also concerned that given this precedent, PLA can build more and more military facilities in government land without gaining any approval and permission, and some could be located next to residential area. There is no regulation in place to regulate these military facilities, and no law to ensure that the public should be informed about the constructions of these facilities.