Cages holding cats and dog carcasses wash up on Lantau beach

The carcasses of two cats and a dog in cages have been found on Sham Wat beach, the latest in series of occurrences across the city.

A plastic cage containing two cats and another holding a dog were discovered on the beach in Lantau’s remote north-west, local media have reported.

Lantau police called SPCA staff to the scene and are treating the case as animal cruelty. None of the animals had microchips.

It follows several incidents in August involving the apparent smuggling of domestic animals out Hong Kong.

Customs and marine police intercepted smugglers off Mui Wo carrying a huge haul, including 12 microchipped dogs in cages on August 21.

Several days later a cage holding three dogs was found on the beach at Stanley,. The following day the bodies of 12 cats in two cages were washed ashore on Lamma Island.

The pets were most likely tossed overboard as the smugglers were pursued by customs and marine police.

One theory is that they were owned by mainlanders stranded in Hong Kong by the pandemic who were trying to send them home.

Photo: Sham Wat Bay

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Govt makes beaches U-turn – but they’re still closed this weekend

After three months, Hong Kong’s beach shutdown has officially ended – but you still won’t be able to legally visit a beach until next Tuesday.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), which manages Hong Kong’s 39 public beaches, announced the lifting of the ban earlier this week.

The re-opening, which includes Lantau’s popular Cheung Sha, Pui O, Tong Fuk and Silvermine Bay beaches, coincides with the regular end of the lifeguard season, so there will be no lifeguards on duty.

The decision came six weeks after swimming pools were opened again and just three days after a critical South China Morning Post article asked why Hong Kongers were now free to visit Singapore but not the local beach.

Ocean Recovery Alliance founder Doug Woodring pointed out to the SCMP “there’s hundreds of people in Central standing right next to each other on every street corner every day.”

By contrast, “when people go to the beach, they like to stay separate naturally.”

An LCSD spokesperson said the closures were due to “the open environment” of beaches that made it “difficult to enforce the epidemic prevention and social distancing measures as implemented in sports venues and swimming pools.”

Three days later, these social distancing measure suddenly became enforceable as the department lifted its ban, although it did remind people to wear a mask “at all times” on the beach.

In reality, the beach closures have been somewhat farcical all along and there is no shortage of Lantau residents who have continued to swim, walk or exercise their dog on the beach despite the official closures.

That is because the restrictions apply only to the area inside the rope and the shark net. Outside are no limits, but there also are no lifeguard services and the waters are often more dangerous.

This has brought other problems. As Olivier Courret, who runs a group called Open Water Swimmers of Hong Kong, told the SCMP:

“The main issue is people swimming outside the safety nets because they don’t have a choice any more,” he said. “And some of them don’t have open water common sense, or skills, and I could see them putting themselves in dangerous situations.

Not for the first time, the government had made the right decision after exhausting all other possibilities.

Photo: Pui O Beach (file photo)

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THIS WEEKEND: Halloween, live music, ‘real recycling’

A Halloween fundraiser at Cheung Sha, the return of live music to Bahce and some “real recycling” in Mui Wo top this weekend’s Lantau events.

Oct 30: Live music Bache Turkish Restaurant. Bambie’s Friends. 9-11pm

Oct 23-31: Halloween pumpkin carvings. On display at Marcy’s Lantau, 88 Chung Hau St. 10am-ypm

Oct 31: Waste Free Mui Wo. 10:30am-12pm. Bring your clean and dry plastics, styrofoam, drink cartons and papers for “real recycling.” Outside Chez Lantau, G/F Ngan Yuet House, Ngan Wan Estate. Details

Oct 31:  Ghouls Day. Kids’ sports day, adult beer run, games, beach movie night. From 2pm, Lantau Grocer, Cheung Sha Beach. $100 entry. Proceeds to Little Lantau Montessori School.

Nov 1-30:  UTML (Ur Trail du Mont Lantau). Hike, walk or run Lantau trails to support Lantau conservation and oppose the Lantau Tomorrow reclamation. Details

Nov 8: Discovery Bay Sunday Market. 11:00 am – 6:00 pm Discovery Bay Plaza. Details

Dec 12-13: Treasure Island Christmas Market. 11am-5pm, Pui O Beach. Details

Dec 12: Treasure Island Group Third Annual Charity Ball.  6pm, Treasure Island, Pui O Beach. 6pm. $580 per person $5800 per table. Details

Hike Lantau trails next month to support Lantau conservation

Want to run or hike the hills of Lantau and promote conservation at the same time?

Hong Kongers have that chance next month with the first UTML – aka Ur Trail du Mont-Lantau – offering nine different events ranging from a 2km walk to a 100km endurance race.

Organisers Ms So and Ms Chung say they took the idea from the famed UTMB around Mont Blanc, the world’s biggest trail race.

Ms So said with the government pushing ahead with the Lantau Tomorrow reclamation, “we wanted to hold an event to encourage people to hike the hills and forests to save Lantau.”

The UTML comprises nine different races, starting with a 2km road walk around Tung Chung, moving up to 10km -16km courses for regular hikers, and then three ultra-trail routes 50km, 60km and 100km in length.

The other twist on the UTML is it’s a virtual event. It will run for all of November and people can complete their chosen course in their own time.

“You go to Lantau, you pick one of the routes that we provide, and then you finish the trail,” said Ms So.

“Then you get the GPS record through a smartphone app, Strava, Polar, or Garmin etc, and you can screencap it and share it, along with photos taken along the route.”

The hashtags are #HKUTML #and IloveLantau.

Ms So said that apart from promoting the preservation of Lantau, she hopes to help bring together people with similar views.

“It’s about community building. This belongs to everyone who loves Hong Kong and loves Lantau.”

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More cars headed for S. Lantau as govt ponders extra permits

South Lantau drivers look set to face even more competition for space and parking spots.

The Transport Department says it is ready to implement the “second phase” of its permit scheme which allows vehicles from outside Lantau to enter the closed road area.

Since February 2016 the department has issued one-day permits for up to 25 private cars and 40 tourist buses under its Driving on Lantau Island Scheme (DLS).

The department said in a statement it had reviewed the scheme in the light of “the continuous improvement” in Lantau transport and road facilities  and had taken into account “utilisation of the quota, public demand, road conditions and transport facilities… as well as conservation concerns.”

Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) chairman Prof Stephen Cheung said on Tuesday the committee welcomed the plan, which members believed would “assist members of the public to visit South Lantau as well as support its economic and community development.”

The department has not spelled out what it means by “second phase,” but given its satisfaction at the scheme so far it almost inevitably means lifting the quota.

Its original proposal in 2015 was to allow 50 private cars and 50 buses per day.

While the increased number of cars is a small increment among the 2000 or so daily vehicle trips that take place inside the closed road area, the lifting of the quota would realize critics’ fears that the number would face continued pressure to be raised.

An even bigger problem is that the increased volume of vehicles would further strain South Lantau’s already-stretched parking capacity.

Even with the new and larger car park. Mui Wo is almost permanently full. Pui O, Upper Cheung Sha, Tong Fuk and Tai O are all but maxed-out as well.

The Transport Department said it will consult stakeholders in the next few months.

Chek Lap Kok-Tuen Mun tunnel to open by year-end

The HK$47 billion road and tunnel link between Chek Lap Kok airport and Tuen Mun will open by year-end.

The connection is the final and most expensive piece in the HK$120 billion HK-Macau bridge project.

It connects north from the Chek Lap Kok boundary crossing to Tuen Mun via a 5km undersea tunnel. A flyover connects south to the North Lantau Highway.

The new road-tunnel connection, which has taken nine years to build and carries the clunky title of Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link (TM-CLKL), reduces the journey time for vehicles in Zhuhai or Macau to Shenzhen.

But precious few are making the trip. The number of passengers making the crossing fell 90% in February and to as few as 200 vehicles per day in July.

It has also attracted the ire of Tuen Mun residents, who complain that it does nothing to solve their chronic traffic congestion problems.

It does open up an alternative path to the airport, however.  The freeway link from Kowloon was cut for several hours when a barge struck a support on the Kap Shui Mun bridge in October 2015

In her policy address last year CE Carrie Lam floated the idea of waiving tolls on both the Lantau Link and the new tunnel to save travel costs for Tung Chung residents.

Nothing has been heard of the idea since, however.

Lam says after the tunnel is opened it will be easier for Hong Kong vehicles to drive north into Shenzhen, although details are still to be worked out.

Because of the limited capacity of Hong Kong roads, it won’t be a reciprocal arrangement, she said yesterday.

Buffalo wars: Yu demands answers, conservationists demand protections

The future of Lantau’s cattle and buffalo populations is once again in dispute after an elderly woman was injured in a buffalo incident in Ham Tin.

Lantau district councillor Randy Yu has seized on the event to demand AFCD officials attend today’s Islands District Council meeting to answer questions and “ensure the safety of citizens’ lives.”

But there is disagreement even on the basic facts of the incident, including the date.

According to Yu’s account an 82-year-old woman, Ms Chen, and her un-named helper were knocked over by a male buffalo in the early hours of September 26.

Chen had more than ten stitches stitched on her wound and suffered physical and mental injuries and still had lingering palpitations.

“Since the accident, residents have been very worried about the safety of children and the elderly when they enter and exit the village,” Yu said.

However, conservationists argue that the AFCD’s neglect of Lantau buffalo and cattle herds endangers people and animals and could lead to their extinction.

“It is of vital importance that both citizens and community buffalos and cattle can coexist in safety and security,” Jean Leung, Pui O’s well-known buffalo carer, said in a statement.

“In order for Lantau to develop sustainably, we urge the government to have a clear policy in relation to the protection of buffalos and cattle in the community.”

Leung said Chen was not attacked but in fact she and her helper had fallen over trying to avoid a young male called Bulging Eyes who was “chasing off cows that had come into his territory.”

She said the incident took place on September 4, not September 26 as Yu claims. 

Leung says she immediately advised the AFCD and the next day Bulging Eyes was captured and relocated to the New Territory buffalo centre.

Leung pointed to the deaths of a female cow and her calf on South Lantau Road three weeks as another sign of the increasingly risky environment for local bovines.

But she said “senior AFCD officials do not seem to understand or even care about the habits of the cattle and water buffalos, neither do they respect the opinions of residents who know the herds well, directly disrupting the lives of the water buffalos and cattle.”

In recent years the AFCD neutering programme had resulted in 99% of the buffalo females being neutered and the castration of many male buffalo, causing clashes within and between herds.

“If this continues, it is not inconceivable that the cattle and water buffalos will disappear from this area completely. This will be a form of extinction.”

She also called on the government to close loopholes in regulations on the protection of coastal territories and strengthen enforcement of the laws intended to protect wetlands.

Leung and others took part in a protest in Central ahead of the district council meeting this morning.

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Police arrest man after convenience store mask fight

In separate incidents in Tung Chung, police have arrested a man following an altercation after he refused to wear a mask, while a 72-year-old man died in an apparent suicide.

Police say a 52-year-old man named Wong entered a convenience store on Mei Tung St next to Tung Chung Crescent without a mask at about 11pm on Thursday, HK01 reported.

When a 21-year-old employee named Tam asked him to put on a mask, Wong refused and struck Tam on the head and hands.

Both Wong and Tam were taken to North Lantau Hospital for treatment for their injuries. Lantau police are investigating.

Police were called to Citygate at 7:50am Friday after the body of a 72-year-old a man was reported.

The victim was unconscious and was sent to North Lantau Hospital but was later certified dead, Headline News said.

Police found a suicide note at the scene and believe he had fallen. The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy.

For crisis help:

The Samaritans (English, Cantonese, Mandarin and other): 2896 0000

The Samaritan Befrienders (Cantonese): 23892222

Caritas Family Crisis Support: 18288

After another torrid year, Ngong Ping 360 targets local visitors

Amid yet another tough year, Ngong Ping 360, one of Lantau’s biggest attractions, is targeting local visitors.

The cable car business reported a 21% drop in numbers last year as the city was wracked by protests.

This year it has twice suspended service due to the pandemic, re-opening on September 11 at reduced capacity.

Indoor attractions at Ngong Ping Village, such as Walking with Buddha and Motion 360, remain closed, however.

Managing director Andy Lau says he is cautiously optimistic

“We expect that the number of local guests will increase by double digits,” he said. “While inbound tourism is still suspended, we believe that local citizens will occupy a major market share in Hong Kong’s tourism in the short run.”

To spur his campaign to win local visitors, Lau has struck a deal with sportswear brand Fila for what they’re calling the 360 Fila Sports Fest.

It features Fila’s signature candy-coloured themes on cable car cabins and installations, as well as cable cars decked out in imagery of K-pop sensation BTS, Fila global ambassadors.

Villagers spark confrontation after locking gate on Tai O trail

Villagers at Sha Lo Wan on north Lantau have erected a 2.5m iron gate to keep out visitors, closing one of Hong Kong’s most popular hiking trails.

The village closed the gate last Friday during the long holiday weekend, leading to heated scenes as hikers and runners tried to pass.

Two people who tried to skirt around the gate became lost in the nearby hills, sparking a rescue operation by the fire department.

The Tung-O Ancient Trail is a 15km coastal walk between Tai O and Tung Chung and one of the city’s best-known walking and hiking trails.

HK01 reported that the gate was locked with iron chains and protected by barbed wire and tree branches. Around a dozen villagers stood guard.

Hikers by the locked gate (Photo: Apple Daily)

A sign outside the village states it is a “private area.” Any person who enters “will be treated as a thief and will be reported to the police.”

Police said they had received a complaint from villagers on Friday morning after a heated dispute broke out with hikers who they accused of trespassing, HK01 said.

The hikers departed after police arrived, but were dissatisfied that the police could not explain whether the closure was legal or not.

One visitor, Ms Wong, told Apple Daily that villagers had threatened to beat her if she entered the village. She described them as “selfish and unreasonable” and questioned how they could forcibly occupy a public road.

Late on Friday afternoon two hikers decided to climb into the hills to get around the locked gate became lost.

The villagers refused to open the gate for firefighters, who were forced to use a ladder get into the village. The rescuers located the lost couple near Sha Lo Wan and evacuated them by boat from the San Shek Wan pier.

It’s not the first time Sha Lo Wan villagers have shut visitors out. In 2013 they closed the path as a protest at the government’s refusal to build a main road from Tung Chung to Tai O.

In response to reporters’ queries, the Lands Department said it would “follow up” the incident.