An activist has slammed the police for citing irrelevant laws to stop protesters from demonstrating, after activists protesting government inaction over a 10-metre tall dump site at Kingswood Villas in Tin Shui Wai were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of “theft”.

The dump at Kingswood Villas was discovered earlier this month. The Buildings Department said on Saturday that Dangerous Hillside Orders were issued to owners of the land on March 8, and they were currently working with them on the issue of slope safety.

Protesters held banners to protest government inaction at the dump site.

“Recent inspections by the [Buildings Department] and the Geotechnical Engineering Office of the Civil Engineering and Development Department revealed that there was no further deterioration in the safety risk of the soil fill. Nonetheless, temporary remedial measures must be completed before the rainy season to ensure public safety,” a Buildings Department spokesperson said.

According to Ming Pao, the Buildings Department had ordered the owners of the land to carry out emergency shotcreting work on the slope before March 15. However, so far no work has been done.

On Sunday morning, a group of Land Justice League members and social activists went to the site, holding up banners urging the government to punish the wrongdoers who created the dump site, and filling up bags with earth they dug up from the dump. The demonstrators planned to bring the full bags back to the Central Government Offices to protest at government inaction and lax law enforcement.

Protesters clashing with police.

However, the police arrived and arrested six protesters on suspicion of “theft”. Another demonstrator, Eddie Tse Sai-kit of the Save Lantau Alliance, was arrested for not carrying his identification documents, while Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan was arrested for causing a public nuisance after trying to barge through the gate. The protesters refused to post bail and were released without charge on Sunday afternoon.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said on Sunday that three different departments, led by the Environmental Protection Department, will be “strictly following up on the matter”, but each department needed to collect more evidence, such as aerial photos of the site, and examine the relevant law.

Lee Cheuk-yan being taken away by police.

Land Justice League’s Chu Hoi-dick, who was among those arrested on Sunday, said that the idea that there was a need to collect evidence was absurd, saying, “I’m a member of the public and I could understand what’s going on in a day. I don’t get why it [takes them] months and even years to investigate… they make it sound like they need Sherlock Holmes,” Chu told Ming Pao. “You can see the evidence.”

Chu said that the police were using irrelevant laws to stop them from protesting. He also said that such illegal dumping cases happen possibly every day and it was up to the public to stop them when the government failed to act. Chu said that in the future, they would go to more sites to dig up earth and bring it to the Central Government Offices, and protest until the government responses, RTHK reported.

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.