- a Tai O smugglers tale -

As mentioned in the beginning of this section about Tai O,- it is just about as far away as you can get in Hong Kong.  But it is also the only place in the Hong Kong territory, where the border line to China actually follows the coast line for a stretch also covering the western part of Lantao Island,- instead of just being an invisible line, far out at sea. That means,- that if you walk on the beach around the Hau Wong temple, - you are in Hong Kong,- but if you take one step out into the water,- you are in China!
Of course the border area is patrolled by the Hong Kong Police,- but they are  not very enthusiastic about the protection of the territory,- so they take it very easy!

Look at the follow pictures to see what comes out of that!

Here is the coast line of Tai O near the Hau Wong temple,- with Lantau Island behind!  This is Hong Kong territory,- but the water behind the rocks on the beach,- is Chinese territory!  The boats are all Chinese,- and they are just lying there safe on the Chinese side of the border,-  for hours and hours, - waiting and  waiting!

At the same time,- a lot of the local people assembled on the beach,- apparently just pretending to enjoy the weather,- and looking very innocent - - -   But they were also waiting!

What they were all waiting for was of course for the Police Officer to leave! The Police Officer knew perfectly well what was going on,- but he had to play his part in this weird game,- and after a while he would eventually find an excuse to turn his back to the scenario,- and leave with a big, big smile on his face-, and that was the signal everybody had waited for -

A closer look at the Chinese trade junks loaded with goods -

When the Hong Kong police man leaves,- this is what happens: Immediately the Chinese boats rush to the coast,- and boxes and  baskets with goods from China,- mostly vegetables-, are carried  ashore!

An illegal visitor from China,- with a bag of smuggler goods, and baby on her back -

 - and another one -

The trade starts -

- and everybody gets a good deal!

The Chinese farmers get a lot more for their vegetables than they would  get back home in China,- and the Hong Kong people get their vegetables cheaper than they could get in Hong Kong. So everybody is a winner,- except the politicians who make the rules that prohibit events like this-, and it is indeed a strange experience to see how well the common people from one of the most restricted  communist      countries in the world are getting along with ordinary people from one of the most free of the capitalist nations!

They all talked very friendly and happy to each other,- as if they were all good old friends or relatives , which they actually might have been! A living proof that it is not the common people who make trouble in the world!

What about me then????  Well,- I did not feel too comfortable in the beginning!  After all,- I was the only "gwei-lo" there,- carrying "tons" of camera equipment, and traditionally,- the Chinese do not like to be photographed!  How would they react to a "Foreign Devil" who had nothing to do there,- but showed so great interest in their illegal actions,- and even recorded it on film????  I did feel a little bit tense and alone,- but on the other hand I would not miss this great opportunity to experience something special,- so I stayed!
But not an evil word was heard ,- and nobody acted hostile against me! On the contrary - -
I think they by instinct just knew,- that this "Foreign Devil" was O.K., and totally harmless, with absolutely no desire to harm anybody,- so they just ignored me,- and consequently I could move freely among them,- in spite of the fact, that I actually caught them in action,- and even photographed it!

The "scene of the crime" , - a final view - , with the old Hau Wong temple in front    :-)



      Updated:  June 21st. 2003
                    Nov. 25th. 2004
                    Feb. 12. 2005