After the campsites managed by the Hong Kong government were closed for more than two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the authorities finally gave the green light for reopening this month.
Camping enthusiasts criticised the decision as “too late” and complained that he had to set up camp in non-country park areas or pay expensive prices to private campsites. They also expressed that Hong Kongers have a high demand for campsites due to the small living spaces they own.
Map: the 41 locations of country park campsites managed by the government.
In the government’s latest round of easing social distancing measures, it allowed citizens to camp at 41 country park sites managed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department starting on November 17.
The campsites were first shut down between March 28 and May 20 in 2020. They reopened briefly and were closed again on July 15 2020, and remained so until now.
Hiking enthusiasts could set up tents in private campsites. But due to the limited supply of non-public rest areas, many of them chose to camp in non-country park areas or even in some quiet corners of the country parks illegally. In a written inquiry, lawmaker Ben Chan challenged the authorities’ decision to reopen barbecue sites earlier this month but to keep the campsites shut and asked if authorities have a timeline in place for reopening the city’s campsites.
In the first three quarters of 2022, the agriculture department issued 146 warnings against illegal camping, the highest number compared to annual totals recorded since 2017.
On the first weekend of the campsite reopening, a lot of colorful tents could be seen in different country parks. Some parents brought their children to get outdoors, while some young couples came to spend intimate time.
Mr. Leung, one of the campers, has started camping since he was a teenager. He emphasized the need for public campsites since many residents live in crowded flats, where they do not have enough private space.
I am living with my family. But sometimes I just want to have some me time. That’s why I love camping.
With a folding chair, light, and some cooking equipment, Leung prepared to cook steak for himself after the sun had set. He told Shroffed that the campsite in Hok Tau today was quite full and criticized the government’s reopening policy “too late”.
“The only good thing about it is that the grass got a chance to rest. You could see them green and growing. A few years ago, the grass area decreased a lot due to human activities.”
Feature image by Dawna Fung