27th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Home Affairs Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), and the Lands Department (LandsD) have initiated a collaborative enforcement operation at the Permitted Burial Ground (PBG) of Tai Tau Chau (SK/52) in Sai Kung to combat illegal hillside burials. The operation aims to remove seven illegal graves, urn houses, and urns within approximately two days. The human remains will subsequently be reburied at the Sandy Ridge Cemetery.
On 5th and 16th October of this year, the FEHD and the LandsD issued notices regarding ten unauthorised graves, urn houses, and urns located within the PBG of Tai Tau Chau in Sai Kung. The notices instructed individuals associated with these graves, urn houses, and urns to cease their occupation of government land and to contact the relevant government departments before 6th and 16th November respectively. Failure to comply would result in the reburial of the human remains at the Sandy Ridge Cemetery. As of the deadline, seven graves, urn houses, and urns remained unclaimed, prompting the Government to commence the clearance operation.
Since 2016, the Government has implemented a pilot scheme for the management of PBGs in various locations. Considering the unique circumstances of each PBG, appropriate measures have been undertaken, including the installation of boundary pillars, surveys of existing graves, urn houses, and urns, restrictions on burial site sizes, and demarcation of available spaces for new burial site applications. These measures ensure that burials take place within designated PBGs. The pilot scheme has been extended to encompass 15 PBGs, covering all nine administrative districts in the New Territories.
Based on data obtained from the pilot scheme, the Government has initiated phased enforcement actions against illegal burials within PBGs since July 2021. In addition to the current enforcement actions in the PBG of Tai Tau Chau in Sai Kung, the Government plans to undertake follow-up actions in other PBGs under the pilot scheme. Notices will be posted on unauthorised graves, urn houses, and urns ahead of the upcoming Ching Ming Festival. The aim is to remove unclaimed graves, urn houses, and urns promptly after the notice period expires.
A Government spokesperson emphasised that occupying government land without permission from the relevant authority, as stipulated in the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28), constitutes an offence. Failure to comply with the prescribed notice can result in the demolition and removal of any structures or properties on the occupied land, and offenders may face prosecution. Furthermore, burying human remains without written permission from the authority is an offence under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132). Offenders are subject to prosecution, and the human remains within the affected graves will be removed.