Compulsory purchase law is yet another favour to corporate sector

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 April, 2010, 12:00am

Philip Bowring's piece was a good reminder of the basic unfairness of the government's introduction of an 80 per cent majority to permit developers to deprive citizens of their property ('Developers benefit when there's a lot at stake', March 28). I would ask two further questions.

First, how does this square with generally accepted notions of justice under law?

In general, laws in different nations permit compulsory purchase only where there is a public benefit. The social benefit must outweigh the fact that you are depriving someone of their home against their will. However, here, there is no requirement of any social benefit. A property could be perfectly maintained and yet the minority owners can be deprived of their property.

The Basic Law provides for compensation for 'lawful deprivation of property', but does not suggest what is lawful.

Given that assets as lacking in emotional content as shares in a company require a 90 per cent majority to deprive the owner of them, it seems surprising that it is lawful to deprive owners of their homes based on an 80 per cent majority. One hopes the matter will be tested in the courts.

Second, who benefits? It is easy to understand that the developer will benefit the most. Some owners may see their property as a tradable asset, and want to realise value by selling, perhaps to a developer. But it is the developer who stands to gain the most (as he takes the development risk).

None of these economic motives can (or should) justify depriving one person of his property, simply to grant another person a monetary benefit.

It is difficult to see why the government should want to align itself with still further commercial interests. Beijing has already suggested that the government should attempt to reassure the stable political centre - the educated middle class.

Instead, by this act of indifference to property rights, of potentially questionable legality, the administration has opened itself to further attack for its perceived favouritism to corporate over private interest. I doubt the political wisdom of doing so, in the longer run.

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels