Debate on land rights moves to classroom

LEGISLATIVE Councillor Christine Loh Kung-wai stirred up a storm recently with her proposal in the Legco to amend the New Territories Land (Exemption) Bill. The issue still continues to be a subject of heated debate among citizens of all ages, as was evident at SKH Holy Trinity Church Secondary School recently.

The amendment grants female indigenous inhabitants of the New Territories the right to inherit land as against the centuries-old tradition, under which only males have the right to land.

Speaking for the motion ''Legislative Councillor Christine Loh's amendment to the New Territories Land (Exemption) Bill is in the best interest of Hong Kong'', the affirmative side noted that ''best interest'' referred to common interests of people including equality and justice. Thus, by eliminating inequality between men and women, the amendment would be serving in the best interests of Hong Kong.

First speaker Yvonne Yip Chi-kwan argued if Hong Kong were to achieve equality and justice, it was necessary for it to abolish existing privileges of land inheritance to males alone.

''Even after the amendment is passed, indigenous residents will be able to allow their sons to inherit property under the Provision of the New Territories Ordinance. But if they want their daughters or wives to be a part of it too, there will not by any need to go through all the lengthy procedures,'' said second speaker Carmen Hui Hau-ling.

While supporting sexual equality, the opponents argued that the amendment might still fail to achieve its goals and discrimination against women might well continue.

''Indigenous residents can still pass their land to their sons rather than their wives and daughters,'' argued the second speaker, Choi Sze-wan.

Therefore, the amendment might just be an illusion where sexual equality was concerned, he said.

The team argued that the amendment would also be a violation of both the Basic Law and the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

After over one hour's debate, the affirmative side scored 748 points and the opposition 721 points. The best speaker's prize went to Yvonne Yip Chi-kwan on the affirmative side.

Commenting on the debaters' performance, Legislative Councillor Loh said the arguments were of a high standard. ''But both sides should challenge each other more.''