A musician said he saw masked men acting suspiciously during the wildfire in Nam Sang Wai as his band was shooting a music video in the wetland area, where two fires hit this week.

The two fires, which affected 12 hectares, started on Monday and Tuesday. Harold Li, a vocalist in the band PHOON, was planning to shoot the video on Monday afternoon.

Li and his crew arrived around 5pm on Monday only to find a fire burning in the area. Li said he saw three middle-aged men wearing masks riding around on bicycles, “like they were patrolling.”

Nam Sang Wai fire

The men saw Li and his crew’s video equipment and asked them if they were reporters, Li told Apple Daily.

At the same time, the director of the music video – who was riding in a car in another location – saw a purple Mercedes-Benz driving back and forth. The two people in the Mercedes would stare at passersby who stopped to look at the fire: “They were glaring at people, like they were trying to drive them away,” Li said.

Nam Sang Wai fire

Li said the fire looked unnatural to him: “We saw three or four origins of the fire, each several hundred metres apart, it was very weird.”

Li reported the case to the police on Wednesday afternoon with lawmaker Roy Kwong.

Kwong urged the police to conduct a serious investigation: “If there is evidence that to show that the fire ignited abnormally, we ask the police to find out the culprit as soon as possible.”

Wildlife habitat

Nam Sang Wai is a popular spot for local visitors, as well as a resting spot for migratory birds.

According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, it served as a nighttime resting place for over 4,000 great cormorants in January of last year.

Other birds and animals such as black-faced spoonbills, Chinese penduline tits, yellow bitterns, and Eurasian otters also rely on Nam Sang Wai as their habitat. There are also about a dozen fishermen raising fish in the ponds, according to the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society. 

The group said: “According to the humidity in recent days and past records in Hong Kong, there [should be] no natural fires in Hong Kong. We suspect that this fire was caused by human factors.”

eurasian otter
A Eurasian otter in Denmark. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“We urge the police to investigate the cause of the fire, to protect Nam Sang Wai’s environment and the safety of fishermen, and to prevent similar incidents from happening again.”

Much of the land scorched in this week’s fire belonged to Nam Sang Wai Development Company Limited, which is partially owned by property magnet Henderson Land Development.

The company has also reported the case to the police, saying that the fire occurred under suspicious circumstances.

Nam San Wai fire

The company said it regularly sends staff to remove wild grass and dead trees in order to reduce the risk of fire spreading, and to protect the safety of tourists. The company also said it was evaluating loses after the destruction and will improve security and fire safety measures.

The company said it provided information to the police on Wednesday and expressed hope that the case will be solved soon.

Police were on scene on Wednesday to investigate the fire.

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.