The small-house policy is causing needless divisions in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am


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Regarding Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's thinking on ending the small-house policy (when she was development secretary), I write to support her views on this matter.

This is an out-of-touch, inequitable, abused and unsustainable policy of the Hong Kong government.

It is out of touch because it is not supported by the majority of the population. It is inequitable because it benefits fewer than 10 per cent of the population. It is abused because many applicants do not live in Hong Kong. Many indigenous villagers sell their agricultural land to developers and then apply to the government for land to build.

And it is unsustainable because there is simply not enough land for all the indigenous people to build their small houses.

Hong Kong's indigenous people believe that, enshrined in the Basic Law, they have the right to build a 700 sq ft house once they reach the age of 18. Some in the legal profession may argue that this right is not enshrined in the Basic Law. Whatever the legality of this may be, if Mrs Lam and the government really want to end the policy, it can be done by an interpretation of this law, or by amending the Basic Law.

The monetary benefit of the policy to an indigenous villager is huge. By building a small house and selling it on the open market, his profit can exceed HK$10 million.

Many of the non-indigenous population toil for their entire lives and often end up with less. Such is the monetary inequity of this policy. More damaging to our society is the division the policy creates. Individuals like me can only look at the indigenous people and this policy with envy and contempt.

The government has promised to re-examine it for over 10 years, but has done nothing so far. We therefore now have the Heung Yee Kuk voting with the government on most issues. The government has continued to approve small house applications. Non-indigenous people continue to suffer the high cost of housing.

By giving public land to indigenous people so they benefit handsomely from building and selling small houses, the administration has in effect created a section of our society that live like parasites.

It undermines the Hong Kong spirit, the essence of which is hard work and adaptability. To me, this is the most damaging aspect of the small-house policy.

I therefore support Mrs Lam's thinking on ending it. The sooner she acts on it, the better.

C. Y. Wong, Central