Nothing in life is absolute or unconditional. But in a capitalist society that respects the rule of law, property rights come close to such an ideal. The place we call home is one of the keys to our security and liberty. It is the foundation of the kind of prosperity that underpins the legitimacy of any capitalist market. The newly revised Land Ordinance - introduced by the government and contentiously passed with the support of legislators for the functional constituencies - comes dangerously close to interfering with the rights of private ownership. It does not provide a level playing field, clearly tilting in favour of developers. By lowering the threshold for the compulsory sale of a residential building 50 years or older from the current 90 per cent of property interests to 80 per cent, the law will make it much easier for private developers to force out recalcitrant flat owners. And, contrary to the claim by Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor that it was introduced to help ordinary flat owners, their bargaining power to command reasonable compensation will actually be weakened. Such a law can only be justified when there is an overwhelming public interest at stake. But the government has, in effect, produced a law that helps developers take over private properties in what will, in most cases, be commercial transactions between private parties. Many developers have been stealthily building up 80 per cent ownerships at sites they believe to be potentially the most profitable for redevelopment; the new law will effectively hand them much more power to take over those sites. Some general justification about the need to speed up urban renewal in run-down districts has been cited. The government has argued that in many cases, the majority of owners want to sell but are prevented by a minority. But any individual owner is always free to sell his or her own flat; the real question is whether anyone should be compelled to sell at a price not of their choosing. If a building has redevelopment potential a homeowner might reasonably want to demand a premium to existing market prices; that's what capitalism is about. One might call such individuals greedy, and perhaps they are, but no more so than the developer who wants a bigger share of the redevelopment profits. If the new law's advocates truly believe it accords with natural justice, should we then not allow 80 per cent of the owners of buildings on a street to compel the other 20 per cent to sell to them for redevelopment? Could 80 per cent of stallholders in a market push the others to lower prices of their goods? The new law will be cited by critics as further proof that the collusion between the government and the business elite is not a myth, and that ordinary people have less and less support in an independent legal system to fight for their rights. Private developers may be uncorking the champagne, but the new law may well come back to haunt this government. Lam has promised fair mediation schemes and other options to help owners of small flats. Let us hope the government will keep its word. The schemes need to be robust enough to serve as effective recourse for dissenting owners. But, however they turn out, much damage has already been done.