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Basic Law

Relax, property owners: Hong Kong development minister sees no major policy shift on land leases after 2047

Paul Chan Mo-po seeks to dispel fears of an automatic loss of property rights after ‘one country, two systems’ ends

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2016, 3:40pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2016, 9:46pm

Hong Kong property owners should not believe “alarmist” speculation that the government will make dramatic policy changes on land leases after 2047, the city’s development minister said yesterday.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po was again attempting to dispel “misconceptions” that leases might expire that year, when the city reaches the end of the 50-year guarantee of its capitalist life under the “one country, two systems” principle of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The misconceptions, Chan said, stemmed from an interpretation of Annex III of the declaration that all lands leased by the government before the city’s 1997 handover to Beijing would expire on June 30, 2047.

He cited Article 123 of the Basic Law, which gives the government authority to renew leases after 1997 “in accordance with laws and policies formulated by the region on its own”.

“I hope residents will acknowledge the facts,” Chan wrote in his weekly blog yesterday. “There is no need for people to frighten themselves.”

There is no need for people to frighten themselves
Paul Chan Mo-po, development minister

“I especially would advise small property owners not to so easily believe rumours such as ‘you will automatically lose your property rights after 2047’ so as to avoid selling property based on such false information, and incurring losses.”

But lawmaker-elect Cheng Chung-tai on Sunday said Chan would not be able to allay residents’ concerns over 2047 because many were also worried about Hong Kong’s political future.

“It’s not just land leases,” Cheng said. “Will our common law system, our Court of Final Appeal disappear over night? Will the one country two systems become ‘one country, one system’? These are the biggest considerations.”

Last week, architecture and surveying sector lawmaker-elect Edward Yiu Chung-yim said there was no guarantee leases would be automatically extended and that renewals and rates would depend on the government’s fiscal situation at the time.

Yiu urged the government to give property owners assurances sooner rather than later as uncertainty could affect home values and affect the property market by putting people off buying.