The government’s decision to cut down four banyan trees based on cracks on a stone fence above them on Bonham Road has been criticised by experts as “misguided.”
The Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO)—an arm of the Civil Engineering and Development Department—said on Tuesday that the wall where the four trees were growing out of was actually divided into two parts.
According to Ming Pao, the GEO said the four trees grew from the main wall. The Highways Department based its decision to cut down the trees on cracks that appeared on a stone fence above the wall, a section that was not supporting the four trees.
A statement by the Highways Department said they found 16 cracks on the stone fence on August 7, with the largest one being 2cm long. The department then acknowledged that “there was nothing in the stone [fence] itself that suggested there was any immediate danger.”
The announcement came just a few days after the Highways Department decided to cut down the four trees, citing public safety concerns after two people were injured when a large banyan tree on the same road was uprooted during a storm.
The tree—said to be the tallest in Hong Kong growing out of a stone wall—was one of six on the Bonham Road and Centre Street intersection. After it fell, the Tree Management Office decided to remove one that was in bad condition and prune the other four.
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However, on Friday evening the Highways Department announced that the remaining four trees would be cut down because of cracks in the stone fence.
The move was controversial among local residents in Mid-Levels West.
On Sunday, August 9, district councillors and residents protested near the four tree stumps. On Wednesday a group of district councillors from the Central and Western District Council delivered a petition to the Highways Department’s office to protest its decision to go ahead with the felling without public consultation.
Democratic party district councillor Ted Hui Chi-fung told HKFP during the demonstration that there had been cracks on the upper part of the wall for a long time.
Hong Kong University geography professor Jim Chi-yong, who is involved with the Expert Panel on Tree Management, described the move as “collateral murder” and said he was not informed of the decision to fell the fours trees until a reporter phoned him.