Holiday period brings out the illegal campers again

It’s now a tradition that the Pui O campsite will spill illegally onto the beach during major holidays.

On Saturday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, half a dozen tents were pitched on the beach at the far end of the campsite.

Illegal camping at Pui O and Cheung Chau beaches became a media issue during Golden Week last May, with the LCSD chief pleading for mainlanders to respect local laws.

The department has said its role is to manage the campsite, not the area outside the campsite.

However, after last year’s incidents hit the headlines, it promised to take action.

But that is not the case, as we see once again.

Illegal camping may not be the biggest problem on South Lantau, but in a district where powerful interests routinely flout the law it has become a symbolic one.

The Pui O camping ground, next to the wide sandy beach, has long been a popular retreat for local people.

Since the opening up of Hong Kong to mainland tourists it has become a magnet for mainland visitors and travel companies wanting to take advantage of its free accommodation.

A minor riot broke out during Golden Week in 2012 after a large number of visitors turned up at the site when it was already full.

Since then the LCSD has introduced a mandatory booking system for major holiday periods.

But still Pui O retains its appeal as a means to a cheap holiday in Hong Kong.

Some mainland travel groups are running tours promising ‘5-star camping’ at Pui O, with local media recounting tales of tourists lugging heavy suitcases full of shopping purchases around the campsite.

This weekend, an Apple Daily reporter visited Pui O and found a Shenzhen man, Mr Pan, who brought his family of “four or five” here for the holiday. He said he had saved thousands of yuan in hotel costs by camping.

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