on 10 March 1997
LegCo Panel on Security
Harassment and Intimidation by Private Developers
Against Residents in the New Territories
This paper outlines the police response to incidents of purported harassment and intimidation by private developers against residents in the New Territories.
2. On 6 November 1996 at LegCo the Hon. Zachary WONG raised, by way of question, the subject of harassment and intimidation against residents in the New Territories by private developers and stated that a number of reports made by local villagers had not received any police attention and had in fact been turned away on the grounds that the disputes were private in nature.
3. On 27 January 1997 the Hon. Zachary WONG wrote to the Commissioner of Police, requesting an internal investigation be conducted to review police action in a specific case of re-possession of land. The Hon. Zachary WONG was subsequently briefed by the District Commander Yuen Long and his officers on 28 January 1997 on the circumstances, background and police action taken in the case. A written reply was also provided to the Hon. Zachary WONG on 26 February 1997.
4. The subject will be discussed by the LegCo Security Panel at its meeting on 10 March 1997. This paper will explain police stance in respect of cases of this nature.
5. Unlike complaints of tenancy harassment in the urban area, purported incidents of harassment reported to police in the New Territories are very often centered around land title disputes which are complicated by the unusual nature of local land rights, titles, tenancy agreements and occupations in the area. This has necessarily meant that cases in the New Territories are far less straightforward than most people would appreciate; and that police has to maintain a neutral stance to avoid being seen as being bias towards any of the parties involved in the dispute.
6. If it can be established that the matter reported involves a criminal act, or acts, an investigation will be conducted to determine those responsible and to collect the evidence to build a case for prosecution. Normally this would be conducted by one of the Crime Investigation Teams from the District concerned. When a particular situation warrants, the investigation may be taken over by Crime Investigation Teams at Regional Headquarters or at Police Headquarters to ensure that adequate resources are assigned to the case. Since January 1996 police have classified two of the incidents reported to them as crime. But it will be inappropriate to provide details at this stage as the investigations are ongoing.
7. For those reports which could provide insufficient evidence to support that a crime has been committed, they have mostly concerned damage to property, disruption to services and obstruction or inconvenience to residents in the immediate vicinity of development projects. In such cases where the element of criminality is absent, the police response is to avoid the situation developing into anything more serious and to attempt to help both sides reach a mutually agreeable solution. Where agreement cannot be reached police will advise that it be resolved civilly and will maintain a watching brief in case those involved try to take the law into their own hands.
8. Police share the concerns regarding the possibility that developers may adopt illegal means to facilitate the rapid possession of sites for development and conduct full investigations into all pursuable criminal cases reported to them in connection with such activities. It must however be recognized that not all reports of harassment are criminal, and that many of them are centered around land title disputes. In such cases it will only be appropriate for the police to continue to maintain an impartial stance, and to limit their role to that of peace-keepers and mediators.
Last Updated on 21 August 1998