Strengthened squatter control measures by Lands Department

A spokesman for the Lands Department (LandsD) said today (December 19) that since the announcement of various strengthened squatter control measures on June 22, 2016, all district Squatter Control Offices (SCOs) and District Lands Offices (DLOs) have been putting in place the measures in the past few months.
Up to October 31, the implementation of these measures has been as follows:
(i) For surveyed squatter structures covered by a non-development clearance programme (i.e. the occupants are encouraged to evacuate their structures for slope safety reasons), unless occupants explicitly indicate that they will voluntarily vacate the structures to allow clearance to be carried out in the near future, LandsD will continue to take enforcement action against irregularities in accordance with the squatter control policy. Following the implementation of the new measures, LandsD has handled five cases under this category, among which three structures were demolished or are to be demolished as arranged while investigation is being carried out into the remaining two structures.
(ii) Since June 22, LandsD has tightened its discretionary arrangements. Specifically, if there is evidence showing that an unauthorised structure is a new extension completed after June 22, actions such as cancelling the squatter control number instantly and demolishing the whole unauthorised structure on government land immediately will be carried out upon detection without giving any opportunity to rectify. Lease enforcement actions will also be taken right away against cases involving newly extended structures on private land which are in breach of lease conditions. In the past few months, seven surveyed squatter structures in Tai Po and Yuen Long have been found with unauthorised extensions completed after June 22 and their squatter control numbers were cancelled immediately.
(iii) LandsD has already drawn up a specific timetable for the enforcement work and has strengthened monitoring. All SCOs are required to report to the headquarters regularly on the case progress of their squatter control actions. Specifically, unauthorised extensions completed on or before June 22 will in general be given a period of 28 days to rectify the irregularities. Approval from supervisors must be obtained for any discretionary extension of this period. To enhance monitoring, all SCOs are required to report to the headquarters regularly on the case progress of their squatter control actions.
 (iv) In the past few months, LandsD has used unmanned aerial systems and a large-format digital aerial camera to take photographs of squatter areas in phases with a view to stepping up investigation and information gathering. These photographs, which are helpful to SCOs in verifying whether the unauthorised structures are newly extended or not, will facilitate the implementation of the initiatives mentioned in item (ii) above.
The spokesman added that, as for other surveyed squatter structures in the Shek O area, LandsD has conducted investigation in Lan Nai Wan Village, To Tei Wan Village and part of Tai Long Wan Village in the past few months. Together with investigation conducted earlier into part of Shek O Village, 15 non-surveyed structures and 33 surveyed squatter structures with irregularities (i.e. 48 illegal/unauthorised structures altogether) were found. Of these structures, 30 are located on unleased government land and 18 on private land, mostly for domestic and storage purposes.
The 15 non-surveyed structures have already been demolished. As for the 33 surveyed squatter structures with irregularities, the enforcement actions by LandsD are as follows:
- The irregularities of one surveyed squatter structure have been rectified after a warning was given;

- The squatter control numbers of 19 structures have been cancelled. (These comprise cases of failing to rectify the irregularities as scheduled, among which one structure has been demolished. As for the 18 structures located on private land in breach of lease conditions, the DLO concerned has taken lease enforcement action according to established procedures and registered the warning letters in the Land Registry so as to impose an encumbrance);
- Warning letters have been issued to the remaining 13 surveyed squatter structures with irregularities requiring the occupants to rectify before a specified date. Given that they are located on government land, should the occupants fail to complete rectification works before the deadlines, LandsD will take enforcement action under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28). A notice requiring the occupants to cease occupation of government land will be posted at the relevant site. If they fail to demolish the structures themselves by the deadline specified in the notice, LandsD will arrange for a government contractor to do so.

LandsD is also investigating 41 cases of suspected illegality and irregularities in Lan Nai Wan Village, To Tei Wan Village, part of Shek O Village and part of Tai Long Wan Village in the Shek O area. If these cases are substantiated, LandsD will take enforcement action according to the strengthened squatter control and improvement measures mentioned above.
As for the unlawful occupation of government land in Shek O Village, Lan Nai Wan Village, To Tei Wan Village and Tai Long Wan Village by such things as jetties, gardens, illegally cultivated sites and discarded waste, the area of government land involved ranges approximately from several square metres to tens of square metres. LandsD has posted 18 notices at the 18 locations concerned under the Ordinance. Of these locations, seven locations saw the cessation of occupation of government land before the specified period. As for the remaining 11 locations, LandsD has completed demolition at six locations and has arranged the same for the other five. LandsD is collecting evidence on these cases, and will initiate prosecution if adequate evidence is established.
LandsD has, in the past few months, found unauthorised structures within the area held under two short-term tenancies and two government land licences. Warning letters have been issued to relevant tenants and licensees, requiring rectification of the irregularities before a deadline. If the tenants or licensees fail to do so by the deadline, LandsD will consider terminating the tenancies or government land licences and demolish the structures in question.
The spokesman reiterated that LandsD will continue to implement various strengthened measures on squatter control. No opportunity for rectification will be given to surveyed squatters with extensions carried out or completed after June 22, 2016, and their squatter control numbers will be cancelled immediately.

Ends/Monday, December 19, 2016
Issued at HKT 11:41