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  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 5:55am
NewsHong Kong

200,000 village houses face warnings on illegal structures

Claim by rural leader as deadline for declaring unauthorised building works approaches and officials prepare to launch enforcement action

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 1:23pm

Buildings Department officers will this week begin handing out as many as 200,000 warnings and demolition orders to the owners of village houses with illegal structures.

It marks the start of a crackdown on unauthorised additions to homes that could take as long as 10 years.

Most villagers appear to have spurned the government's offer to register illegal structures in return for a temporary reprieve from enforcement measures.

By the middle of this month just 11,000 had signed up to a scheme under which they can keep their homes unchanged, subject to five-yearly checks.

It's not known how many village homes have illegal additions.

The Heung Yee Kuk, the lobby group for indigenous New Territories villagers, estimates that 35,000 homes have unauthorised structures.

But rising rural leader Junius Ho Kwan-yiu believes the figure could be as high as 200,000.

A specially formed "village house section" in the Buildings Department, with a director, 40 staff and an annual budget of HK$36 million will tackle the illegal works.

The department has made it clear enforcement action will be taken once the deadline for registration passes on Tuesday. In most cases, warning notices telling owners to demolish illegal structures will be handed out first. If the owners fail to comply, demolition orders will be issued.

Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun said the tremendous manpower and public money involved underscored the fact that the growing number of illegal structures in the New Territories had become a major social issue. To said there were questions the public needed to discuss. "Does our society want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on clearing the structures or on health care services by adding a few more beds in hospital?" he asked. "The enforcement takes time, but it isn't insoluble."

Choy Kin-kuen, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers and a retired senior Buildings Department official, said the enforcement action must go ahead. "It is unhealthy to see those structures surrounding our living space," he said. "They should be cleared, especially when urbanites are questioning if preferential treatment is given to villagers. The dilemma is that it involves a huge cost."

The Buildings Department declined to say whether it would outsource the job of identifying and inspecting illegal structures, as has happened in the past.

Since 2001, the government has undertaken to clear 800,000 unauthorised structures identified as dangerous in urban areas, but it has so far cleared only half of them.

As the spotlight fell on illegal structures beyond urban areas, rural leaders put up a fight to try to stop a similar crackdown, even calling for a blanket amnesty in New Territories villages.

The issue has led to an urban-rural divide and has even split the rural authority itself.

While the kuk's leader, Lau Wong-fat, urged villagers to report their structures, Ho, chairman of its Tuen Mun rural committee, advised the opposite.

Ho, a lawyer, said the register would become a record of villagers' violation of building rules.

Sources close to the three professional institutes - for architects, surveyors and engineers - say they are unlikely to back Ho's proposal to legalise some of the structures.


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This article is now closed to comments

So, why the complaining about this? They were complaining about CY's illegal structures in his home and that the Building Department is handling such cases too lax. Now the Building Department is taking action against illegal structures and you again do complaining. That is what defines HK People and the Pan-Democrates.
I am personally not complaining about this. I am, though, complaining about the exact same thing that I have throughout - that is the media's attempts to create division. If you look carefully at the article above there are only one or two non-attributable quotes, i.e. they are the suggestions of the SCMP. The strongest and most divisive comment is a non-attributable quote - The issue has led to an urban-rural divide and has even split the rural authority itself. This is what the media dreams of, but there is scant evidence as yet of such a situation. If only they can sow the idea in the minds of Hong Kong people then its a story that can run and run. SCMP Wins - Hong Kong society Loses!
hard times !
I just wonder how only 40 staff under a director in the Builldings Department can effectively tackle the serious illegal structures problem existing in our villages in the New Territorities where it is estimated up to 200,000 village houses carrying such structures of which some pose dangers towards others while some have their three-storey houses builts up to five or even six storeys ! The problem has long existed but the authorities have chosen a carefree attitude ---pretending not to behold them.Now it is time to have them all demolished as soon as possible before tackling those illegal structures in the urban areas.Right ?
That's why Carrie Lam is "promoted” to Secretary of Administration.She is a forced-tough cat lying on CY's lap,caressed.We also see a two-headed snake James To when pan-democratic questions CY's trust but he questions the government's deployment of resources to tackle rural illegal structures.
We have 40 to 50k people and families living in subdivided flats, cage home or coffin homes that government and lawmakers are not really care, but rather focusing on cracking down on illegal structures that will drive up more demand for space, does it make sense?
This is an outdated law so called illegal structure. In US I can get a building permit in just one day to expand my house while in HK is almost impossible. Hk has no land but we are so stupid to limit to better utilize our land by not changing the building code, does it make sense? Yes, because the wealthier developers are behind this nonsense. Why? By cracking down the so called illegal structures will drive up demand for flats. By comparison, the inflated buildings, developed by rich developers, in many cases are inflated over 30 to 50 % that is more than the illegal structures by %, but Carrie Lam is allowing the inflated buildings to stay. Double standard.
Family obligation is an excuse when it is lawless. No one family should be advantaged over another family. In fact the family-centric culture when unchecked has had bought chaos and even war in Chinese history. The safety issue is not the only issue about the illegal structures; it goes much further which is about equality and rule of law of which within them we make a living.
Sounds like you work for Mr. Li ?
I think johnyuan has no idea of rural issues as he is an urbanite and a son of an immigrant from china.
Typical 2nd generation HK'er with child like rants. Not Fair Not Fair Not Fair. Give us more money for the poor/cheaper property prices etc...
Agree the property developers may have a big hand in stirring this up
The only urban-rual divide is the one that you, the SCMP, are once again trying to suggest. We are all Hong Kongers trying to do the best we can for our families in trying circumstances.


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