Peng Chau residents have started a petition to rescue a 50-year-old Chinese hackberry tree after the Lands Department determined that it was dangerous and needed to be removed.

Following the felling of four banyan trees on Bonham Road, the Lands Department posted a notice informing Peng Chau residents that the tree on Shing Ka Road was a potential hazard, with removal scheduled on Tuesday. This sparked discontent among Peng Chau residents, who began a petition to rescue the tree.

Protesters, led by District Councillor Ted Hui, gathered at the offices of the Lands Department on Friday, August 14, carrying signs and pictures of the tree. Some residents dressed up as death row prisoners to criticise the decision to “murder” the trees.

tree, ping chau, apple daily
The Chinese Hackberry Tree in Peng Chau.

After the protest, the Lands Department promised observe the tree again before coming to a decision this week.

“Maybe the tree doesn’t mean that much to an expert or to the government—but to those of us who live here, it’s very valuable and there are strong emotional ties,” Ms Deng, who has lived on Peng Chau for 20 years, told Apple Daily. “If we run into a friend, we’d definitely stop to chat under the tree.”

It was reported that despite the Lands Department’s notice, experts said that the tree is in no immediate danger. “The tree roots have already been exposed to the surface for many years now. The tree is used to it,” registered arborist Ma King-lun said.

Ma said that although the tree is leaning slightly towards the sunlight and that there is a “wound” on its exposed roots, it does not affect the structure. There is no need to cut the tree down so long as proper maintenance is carried out, he added. He also said that the tree’s removal would be even more dangerous as the two neighbouring trees might fall.

The Tree Management Section, which has come under fire for failing to protect trees after the Bonham Road banyan trees were taken down, is meeting with experts on Monday to discuss improving the information flow when it comes to the chopping down of trees.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.