HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department has moved to quash speculation that nine military vehicles from Singapore detained in the city since November have been returned.
The department made the rebuttal after Apple Daily said in a report that the vehicles, which had been detained in the outdoor storage yard of a Tuen Mun storage facility for weeks, were missing since Monday.
The department stressed that the vehicles were still being kept in Hong Kong. Video explainer: What’s going on with the Singaporean military vehicles seized in Hong Kong
“As the case is still under investigation, no further information is available. The suspected controlled items are still kept at a customs storage place in Tuen Mun. They have been stored indoors since December 6,” a spokesman said.
At a daily press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang would only say that the Hong Kong government is handling the incident in accordance with relevant laws.
The nine armoured vehicles were uncovered by Hong Kong customs on November 23 in containers without the required permits. The cargo was bound for Singapore from the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung.
The vehicles, which were not “specifically” declared in the cargo manifest, had been used in a military exercise in Taiwan. It was Hong Kong’s biggest seizure of “strategic commodities” in two decades.
Last week, Singapore’s defence minister Ng Eng Hen said the Lion City’s military had learned a lesson from the saga.
A Facebook picture of one of the vehicles when it was first seized at the container terminal. In a Facebook post, titled “2016 – A Look Back”, Ng described it as “a low point from the defence perspective”.
“The [Singapore armed forces] will learn from this episode and has already changed its practices to better protect our assets,” Ng said in the post, without revealing details.
“But all of us are of course upset that the (vehicles), our property, have not been returned to Singapore.” In November, Singapore reassured China that it “will not deviate” from the one-China principle while making it clear the city state hopes to exercise its “full rights of recovery” available.
The remarks by Singapore’s foreign affairs minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and defence minister Ng came a day after China’s foreign ministry said it had lodged a diplomatic protest to Singapore over the incident, demanding the Lion City to strictly abide by the one-China principle.
Observers said the protest was a warning to both Singapore and Taiwan, as Singapore had been carrying out military exercises on the self-ruled island – a practice that long angered Beijing.