Cycling

THE CASE OF THE SUITCASE AND THE BIKE RACK: OMBUDSMAN REVEALS CLEARANCE LOOPHOLE

A yellow suitcase chained to a bike led to the Ombudsman revealing a major loophole in bicycle clearance law

Removing warning notices from bikes to be cleared prevents their removal by Lands Department, the Ombudsman revealed today in a case study in its annual report, highlighting a loophole in the law that it recommends be plugged.

A statutory removal notice attached to a dumped bike

A Lands Department Statutory Notice still attached to a seized bicycle after a clearance operation on Lamma Island

The case stems from a complaint made to the Ombudsman over government departments’ handling of the “prolonged occupation” of a bicycle parking space by a yellow suitcase and a bicycle, chained together.

The complainant had raised the issue with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), which claimed the complaint was not within its purview and referred the case to the Lands Department (LandsD).

The District Lands Office (DLO) posted a Statutory Notice on the suitcase and bicycle, requiring “cessation of occupation of the Government land” before a specified date, and threatening seizure of the suitcase and bicycle should the notice be ignored.

However, on the day of the operation to remove the offending suitcase and bicycle, DLO discovered the Statutory Notice had been removed, and therefore, according to the Ombudsman, it could not legally remove the articles.

“We considered it an enforcement loophole that offenders could circumvent Lands Department’s clearance action by simply removing the statutory notices,” says the Ombudsman in its report. “LandsD should review its practice.”

The Ombudsman found fault with FEHD for not handling the initial complaint in a timely manner but found that LandsD had, despite the legal loophole, acted within guidelines, and that the complaint against it was unsubstantiated.

Around Hong Kong last year, government departments conducted 376 bicycle clearance operations, seizing and confiscating a total of 14,846 bikes. Most recently, the government drew fire for seizing bikes on Lamma Island and dumping them in the countryside.

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