• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 5:10am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 1:51am

CY lacks stomach to fight the kuk

There was tough talk about ending the small-house policy in the New Territories when Leung Chun-ying was running for chief executive. Now, you wonder if the government hasn't given in. Leung still says it can't go on forever but does not point to a way out. The latest from development chief Paul Chan Mo-po is that it's "a complex issue that needs to be reviewed". And dragged out indefinitely?

Under the colonial-era policy, any indigenous male villager over the age of 18 has the right once in his lifetime to build a three-storey home on a maximum site of 700 sq ft within his village boundaries. It has proved to be highly lucrative for many villagers but has made planning and development virtually impossible. Along with the vast land banks of developers, it has proved to be an intractable problem limiting the supply of land to boost housing.

The Heung Yee Kuk, the powerful rural body that represents villagers, has always argued that the policy is a "traditional" right protected under the Basic Law. Two articles are often referred to. Article5 says: "The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years."

Article40 says: "The lawful traditional rights and interests of the indigenous inhabitants of the New Territories shall be protected by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region."

Is the small-house entitlement a traditional right that cannot be changed for 50 years? You don't need to be a lawyer to see it is highly debatable under the terms of the Basic Law. But the kuk says yes; officials are reluctant to challenge them.

The kuk's statement that the policy can end after 2047 - that is, 50 years after the 1997 handover - is now, ironically, called a concession. The government can aggressively tackle Article40 like it has with Article24 on the right of abode; it will always have the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to stand behind it with the desired "interpretation". Article24 is, in fact, much clearer on the issues it deals with than Article 40.

But for the government, fighting mainlanders and foreign maids is one thing; the kuk is something else.


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How can the small house policy be tackled when Lau Wong Fat, the Chairman of the Heung Yee ****, is a member of the Executive Council? Whose interests does he serve? Is he for the people of Hong Kong or for a gang of greedy, arrogant, unrepresentative Village Reps who allegedly represent an ethnic minority which has been encouraged by Government collusion and cowardice to regard irtself above the law? The vast majority of residents of NT villages are not indigenous but they are never consulted by VR's, rarely by Government, and are allowed no say in the affairs of the villages. Much Government money poured into villages is misused for the private ends of VR's and indigenous villagers.
There is no legal definition of the Article 40 "traditional rights and interests" or of "indigenous inhabitant" which means one who occupies or lives in a place. Most applicants for NT exempted (small) houses do not live in the village and more do not even live in Hong Kong. They are falling over themselves in an unseemly scramble to cash in on free land and a cheap house (average building cost HK$1m). Virtually none actually live in the houses they build. They get a fat rental income and a few years later sell at enormous profit. VRs get a part of the take for vouching for applicants in a statutory declaration, the truth or otherwise of which is rarely checked or verified. Why this windfall given to the NT villagers? Why is this stinking corruption allowed to continue?
I can only agree wholeheartedly with Alex Lo. An excellent appraisal. Neither the Chief Executive nor the Building Department are up to the enormous challenge to reign in the villagers' freedom to build without checks and balances and, to reverse the department's misguided ignorance of the past. The horses have definitely bolted and CY and the department are a long way from the open gate.
I live in a village estate and my landlord commenced a significant extension of the ground floor area in late 2012. It is almost complete. Likewise, a second house close to ours has commenced building a rather large room on the roof area. I can only assume neither project has been approved by the Building Department. If the Chief Executive and the Building Department are determined to stop illegal, unapproved building and construction work, they are going to have to get their hands really really dirty. Clearly, they do not intend to follow this path given the existing hostile climate.
So, it will be more of the same I guess.
It is NOT a complicated issue. The HKSARG is itself perpetuating it by designating Government land along the boundaries of villages as Village Expansion Areas.
While attending a development meeting in Tsuen Wan in the late 80s I questioned the rationale for making such designations by simply stating that it was not a Government role to expand villages. It is up to the villagers themselves to acquire land at the boundary and seek boundary expansion. Additionally, there is no village in the whole of the NT that actually grows in population or activity, it is always the reverse.
In light of these, the then chairman (who later went on the lead the Planning Department) and the committee agreed that all such expansion designations would be removed from town plans in Tsuen Wan. He also undertook to consult and present the same arguments to the other planning department offices in the NT.
Since I later moved jobs, I have no idea if these these measures were ever promulgated in Tsuen Wan or elsewhere.
So it is NOT at all complicated - the SARG has NO need or responsibility towards village expansion. As for the Small House Policy, it is there to cater to eligible males WITHIN the boundaries of their villages. If they can come up with the land, the permit will be approved.
HK does not have an obligation to ensure they obtain their rights, only an obligation to approve that right in the event they themselves acquire that land.
Alex, if I want to pick a battle to fight, I would pick the developer to fight as they made most and is billions of dollars. It is not fair to have the NT male to get the land but how much do they make each? Very little. Does it make sense? How about those speculated taxi license? They made more for sure and the increased rate is not benefiting the taxi driver. It is much easier that the government start to create new taxi license say 100 to 500 a year and will push down the taxi license price that will benefit the drivers and the public. And this is legal and easy to do rather than fight the ****, but even simple as that the government is not dare to do it, what do you expect?
I meant fight the battle but I don't know why got ***
Dai Muff
I love how the illegal structures are "a complex issue that needs to be reviewed", while the gay rights issue is one that should not be reviewed because it's too complex. .
This is not a complex issue, this is a simple issue. The Government simply needs to abolish the law/right with immediate effect. The Basic Law is ambiguous, but the opinion of the majority of Hong Kong people is not. Stop it or give us some free land.
Both Australia and the USA had traditional systems of giving away free land. In Australia early settlers were awarded 'parcels of land' and the USA had 'land grants'. With such vast land resources relative to their population why aren't these traditional rights still enjoyed by Americans and Australians, as they are in Hong Kong?


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