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LCQ 17: Sha Tau Kok Town

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah in the Legislative Council today (January 19):


     In 2008, the Government announced its plan to further reduce the coverage of the Frontier Closed Area (FCA), but due to security concerns about smuggling activities and illegal immigration, Sha Tau Kok town (STK) was not excluded entirely from FCA.  Some residents of STK have relayed to me that while they are disappointed that STK cannot be opened up for development concurrently with other FCAs, Government's plan of pushing the new FCA boundary up to the entrance to STK will also affect their daily lives.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the area around STK and Chung Ying Street is still within FCA, and the authorities have not provided any timetable for opening up the area for development, whether the authorities have any plan to improve the residents' living environment and the community facilities in the area; if they have, of the details;

(b) given that some residents have pointed out that Sha Tau Kok Chuen, the only public housing estate in STK at present, only provides a total of 662 housing units, and while the residents have been living in the estate for over 20 years, their children, who have reached marriageable ages, have to rent flats on the Mainland because they are unable to rent flats in the area, whether the authorities will identify sites within STK for construction of more public housing units to meet the needs of population growth in the area and to address the problem of overcrowded households there; if they will not, the reasons for that;

(c) given that some residents have pointed out that the Closed Area Permits (CAPs) issued to STK indigenous residents at present are valid for five years and printed on ordinary paper which is not durable and easily torn, whether the authorities will switch to using more durable material, such as that for the Hong Kong Identity Cards or the Hong Kong and Macao Residents Entry and Exit Permits (commonly known as "home return cards"), to print these CAPs, and consider issuing CAPs of 10 years' validity to indigenous residents to save them the need to apply for renewal once every five years; and

(d) given that some residents have relayed that the existing community facilities in STK are inadequate, for example, not having fresh meat stalls in the area, which has caused much inconvenience to the residents who want to buy fresh meat, as they seldom go to the North District to buy meat due to the high transport fares, and if they travel to markets on the Mainland via Chung Ying Street to buy meat, the meat will be confiscated by the Customs and Excise Department when they bring it back to Hong Kong, whether the authorities will consider exercising discretion in handling cases of FCA residents bringing fresh meat back to Hong Kong, or providing new facilities such as markets or shopping malls in the area to improve the livelihood of the residents in the district?



     The Administration announced in January 2008 that the coverage of the Frontier Closed Area (FCA) could be substantially reduced from about 2,800 hectares to about 400 hectares.  The reduced FCA will comprise a narrow strip of land covering the re-aligned boundary patrol road and areas to its north, together with crossing points along the boundary (i.e. the Boundary Control Points and Sha Tau Kok Town).  Sheung Tam Shui Hang Village, Ha Tam Shui Hang Village, Muk Min Tau Village, Tsiu Hang Village, Tong To Village, San Tsuen, Nga Yiu Tau Village, Tong To Ping Tsuen, Lin Ma Hang Village, etc. in the Sha Tau Kok area will be released from the FCA.  With regard to parts (a) to (d) of the question, our reply is as follows:

(a) On the basis of the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines and the local requirements of Sha Tau Kok, the Administration has reserved sufficient land under the Sha Tau Kok Area - Layout Plan for various community facilities.  At present, facilities such as community hall, library and market, etc. have been provided in Sha Tau Kok Town.  In respect of local improvement works, the Civil Engineering and Development Department completed the construction of the Sha Tau Kok Public Pier in 2006, with the provision of a 280-metre long cat walk with roof cover, two additional berths and viewing platforms for enjoyment by the locals.  The works incurred a cost of $45 million. Further, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department refreshed its leisure venues in Sha Tau Kok Town, including Sha Tau Kok Square, Sha Tau Kok Recreation Ground and Sha Tau Kok Children's Playground, in the past two years.  The works done included resurfacing the ground surface and improvement of minor facilities in the venue such as arbours and fences.  The amounts spent on the three venues were $3 million, $0.5 million and $2 million respectively. The Home Affairs Department also upgraded facilities in the Sha Tau Kok Community Hall in 2010 by providing new audio-visual equipments in its hall and conference room.  The works incurred a cost of $478,000.

(b) The Government's current housing policy is to provide public rental housing (PRH) to low-income families who cannot afford private rental accommodation.  The Government and the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) aim to maintain the average waiting time for general PRH applicants at around three years to meet the housing need of low-income families.  As at end 2010, there were about 140,000 applications on the Waiting List for PRH.  Provision of PRH involves the use of public resources, which must be distributed in a fair and reasonable manner.  As such, PRH flats should be open to all Waiting List applicants as appropriate.  At present, HA does not have a policy of building PRH exclusively for a designated population in a specific location.  Sha Tau Kok residents who have housing needs and are eligible for PRH may apply to the HA for PRH under the Waiting List according to the established mechanism.

(c) We understand the concern of Sha Tau Kok residents about the materials being used for the Closed Area Permits (CAPs), and are examining the feasibility of adopting more durable materials, including the consideration of providing plastic laminated CAPs in the short term. As for the proposal to issue CAPs of longer validity to indigenous Sha Tau Kok residents, the Administration will give serious consideration to the proposal after the FCA is substantially reduced, having regard to the long-term usage pattern, the size of population that require access to the FCA and the actual operation of the FCA.

(d) Regulation 4 of the Imported Game, Meat and Poultry Regulations (Cap. 132AK) requires meat or poultry to be imported with an official certificate issued by a competent authority recognised by the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene (DFEH), except with the permission of DFEH in writing.  To safeguard food safety and minimise the risk of disease infection posed by consuming illegally imported game, meat or poultry, it is necessary for DFEH to strictly enforce Cap. 132AK to prosecute illegal importation of game, meat and poultry by travelers.

     At present, there is a public market managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in the Sha Tau Kok FCA, namely the Sha Tau Kok Market.  The market has a total of 66 stalls, of which 60 are currently let out.  These stalls provide a variety of goods and food items, including 23 fish stalls and three frozen meat stalls.  As for fresh meat stalls, there were two stalls originally designated for selling fresh meat in the Sha Tau Kok market.  One of them has long been vacant as there is no bidder for this stall while the business of the other has been suspended as the stall tenant has applied for change of trade in view of slack business.  We will continue to monitor the need of Sha Tau Kok residents for market facilities but consider that there is no need at this stage to increase the provision of such facilities in the area.

Ends/Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:41


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