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Ombudsman probes Government’s handling of stonewall trees on Bonham Road

4 September 2015

The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, stated today (September 4) that she has initiated a direct investigation (DI) into the Government’s decision on August 7 to fell four stonewall trees at Bonham Road. The DI will examine whether there were inadequacies in the Government’s handling of the trees.


In September 2014, the Office of The Ombudsman started a DI into the Government’s tree management regime and practices. That DI focuses on the Government’s overall regime and practices regarding tree management. Substantial progress has been made.


On August 7, the Highways Department (HyD) cut down four stonewall trees growing on the masonry retaining wall between Bonham Road and St Stephen’s Lane. The incident aroused extensive media coverage and public debate. Some considered that the departments concerned had failed to follow proper procedures in their actions, and that they had acted without sufficient justifications and public consultation.


In this light, The Ombudsman has decided, as a matter of priority, to investigate whether the departments concerned, namely HyD, the Home Affairs Department and the Tree Management Office (TMO) of the Development Bureau, had followed the relevant policies and procedures in making their decisions and taking the actions in the incident, and whether such decisions and actions were reasonable and justified. The departments concerned were notified of her decision on August 26. This DI will mainly examine:


(1) whether HyD’s decision to fell the four stonewall trees had sufficient grounds;


(2) how the departments concerned had handled the stonewall trees, including how they had communicated with local residents, the District Council and experts before deciding to remove the trees, and whether the entire process was in compliance with established policies and procedures, and conducted in an open and fair manner;


(3) whether the TMO’s performance in the incident was proper; and


(4) what inadequacies and areas for improvement there are on the part of the departments concerned.


The Office of The Ombudsman believes that the two DIs are complementary to each other and, on completion, will enable the public to have a comprehensive understanding of the issues of concern.


The Ombudsman welcomes views and information from the public relating to this DI.



Office of The Ombudsman


September 4, 2015

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