The Lands Department has told HKFP that a tilting tree it tore down on Thursday was suffering from internal decay and posed a risk to the public. However, photos taken by Lamma Island residents show the inside of the tree to be intact.

Photo: Sarah Millson, Liz Gower.

Environmentalist Liz Gower clashed with contractors and District Councillor Yu Lai Fan earlier in the day, insisting that the tree was healthy and was not a threat to public safety. The contractors initially abandoned the project, but a team returned later in the day to remove the remainder of the tree in Sha Po New Village.

‘High risk of failure’

The government said that it had received a complaint from a resident and commissioned a detailed assessment by a qualified arborist.

“The tree, with abnormal foliage and leaf size, was suffered [sic] from internal decay, resulting in delignification at the buttress and unstable root plate[s],” a senior information officer at the Lands Department said. “The arborist considered that the overall condition of the tree was poor with high risk of tree failure and recommended removal in order to eliminate the risk to the public.”

The results of the investigation were submitted to the Tree Unit which endorsed the removal of the tree owing to a public safety risk.

Photo: Sarah Millson, Liz Gower.

Gower said that she expected the government to be responsive to all taxpayers: “I value the environment. Trees are essential to our ecosystem.  They are treated as nuisances by this local government. The tree was healthy.”

A Googlemaps image posted on a Lamma forum by Johan X Hana showing the tree before it was cut down.

The stump has since been covered with messages of protest. One read “Where are the worms?”, another said “The birds are crying!!”

Photo: Twodogs Ho.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.