Abused small-house policy in Hong Kong needs judicial scrutiny

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 January, 2016, 12:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 January, 2016, 12:01am

I agree with Lo Wai-kong’s opinion (“Small-house policy must be overhauled”, December 29). A custom and an administrative measure do not equate to an inalienable right, so the legal basis of the policy is highly questionable under both common law and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

The current situation is fundamentally unfair and unsustainable and thus cannot wait until 2047 for a political resolution. Therefore, I welcome the news, “Rural leaders amassing war chest for villagers jailed in homes scam” (December 27). It is time this small-house matter should be fully tested under the legal system up to our highest court. Hong Kong people have more faith in the judiciary than our government officials or legislators to be able to reach a clear understanding.

True to form, the Heung Yee Kuk is attempting to pressure officials by intimating “radical action if the government failed to satisfy their demands” and by placing a double-page advert vowing to bypass Hong Kong courts in an appeal directly to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. The kuk chairman wants a meeting with the Lands Department but this matter is now before the courts, hence inappropriate.

Your report estimates that perhaps 16,000 village houses have been built by developers who have purchased “small-house entitlements” from indigenous villagers. This is a major governance issue and therefore the Lands Department should publish the current ownership status of all the houses built under this controversial policy.

The purpose of the small-house policy was to conserve village life, but it is certain that the vast majority of these homes have been sold on to outsiders. I find it inconceivable that the kuk expects that villagers can sell their homes, and then their sons and grandsons have a right to another new one. These houses were not intended to be used as tradable assets.

There is no doubt that this policy has been sorely abused for money-making by villagers, middlemen and developers.

P. C. Law, Quarry Bay