Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po has announced that the government will be cracking down on cases of land lease violations in industrial buildings, a month after a deadly fire in a Ngau Tau Kok industrial building took the lives of two firefighters.

Chan said on Friday that after reviewing the situation of lease breaches involving changes of land use in industrial buildings, the Lands Department will implement risk-based enforcement measures to safeguard public safety.

industrial building
Industrial Buildings in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikicommons.

Chan said that following a consultation with the Fire Services Department, the first round will be targeted against uses for industrial buildings that attract members of the public to the premises.

This includes using industrial building spaces as learning centres, religious gathering places, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Paul Chan Mo-po
Secretary of Development Paul Chan Mo-po. File Photo: GovHK.

Chan said that “with regard to the uses and facilities of conventional industrial buildings, the coexistence of industrial or storage activities and the flow of people is not expected.”

“If the use in the breach of the lease attracts members of the public such as students and customers who are not familiar with the environment of an industrial building to visit or gather in the building, this may pose a risk to them.” This risk is aggravated if dangerous goods are stored there, Chan said.

Ngau Tau Kok fire
Photo: InMedia.

Currently, industrial building leases specify that the space can only be used for industrial or warehouse purposes, although the owner can apply to modify or waive the user clause.

However, a Development Bureau spokesperson said even if the owner has applied to modify the lease conditions, these potentially high-risk uses would still be subjected to enforcement, because in accordance with “existing outline zoning plans and the relevant fire services ordinances and standards, this kind of use in breach of the lease can hardly be given approval.”

Enforcement work will begin August 29, although owners and operators will be informed in advance so they have time to make changes.

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.