Singapore on Monday demanded the immediate return of nine armoured troop carriers impounded by Hong Kong while in transit from Taiwan, calling the seizure illegal under international law.

The November seizure of the Terrex vehicles by Hong Kong customs has triggered a row also involving China, which has sovereignty over Hong Kong and considers Taiwan a renegade island awaiting reunification.


The vehicles were being shipped home from military exercises in Taiwan, where land-starved Singapore has for decades trained its troops.

Following the seizure China lodged a diplomatic protest with Singapore over its military cooperation with the island.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Singapore had repeatedly told the Hong Kong government that the vehicles and other equipment “belong to the government of Singapore and are therefore immune from any measures of constraint.

“Accordingly we have requested the Hong Kong authorities to return our property immediately,” he told parliament.

The vehicles are protected by sovereign immunity even if shipped by commercial carriers, Ng said.

“They cannot legally be detained or confiscated by other countries.”

Ng said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had written to Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung on the issue, and Hong Kong authorities had replied that the investigation would take time.

Hong Kong seized a total of 12 containers, saying they carried “suspected controlled items”.

The Singapore military has reviewed its shipping procedures to ensure its equipment will not be “taken hostage en route” in the future, Ng added. [/restrict]