By Adeline Mak

Eight activists including a lawmaker were released last night despite refusing to pay bail, after being held for nine hours for trying to collect bags of soil and rubbish from what they said is an illegal and dangerous soil dump in Tin Shui Wai. 

Six were arrested for suspected theft while the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan was held for disorderly conduct and Lantau Concern Group’s Tse Sai-kit was detained for failing to produce an identity document.

The dump the size of two football pitches and four stories high has accumulated near residential Kingswood Villas and the Wetland Park.

The government had ordered the landowner to begin urgent shotcreting work by last week to ensure safety, but no such work had been done.

At least 40 activists from the Land Justice League marched to the dump in a “dirt for dirt” action in which they would take the bags of soil and rubbish to the Central Government Offices.

They were warned by police that the soil is private property and should not be taken.

Following the incident, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said the government is in discussion with the landowner.

It takes time to collect evidence, Chan said. 

The person in charge of the land called police at around 8am. Others arrested were league members Chu Hoi-dick and Au Kwok-kuen.

Lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, who assisted those arrested, said another league member, Li Wai, had his home searched by police who had no search warrant. 

Before he was arrested, Lee told police: “We are carrying out environmental protection activity. What is the problem?”

Lee lay on the ground after the police commander ordered his arrest. He was then carried to a police vehicle and handcuffed. 

Barrister Chris Ng Chung-luen said the case is difficult to figure out. 

“I believe police will have a difficult time in proving the soil belongs to the landowner. As dumping soil is illegal in nature, there is no duty for one to say something against oneself in court,” he said.

Concerned Tin Shui Wai residents fear a landslide may occur similar to the one in Shenzhen that killed 69 people in December. 

Other land dumps have been discovered across the SAR since the Tin Shui Wai dump was found.

Article originally appeared in The Standard on 21 March 2016.