Proper development of New Territories can solve housing woes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 9:37pm

I refer to the article, “Government steps up fight on home prices” (November 5), about the government’s decision to again increase stamp duties.

If officials open the map of Hong Kong, they will see that 92 per cent of our land resources are in the New Territories, which has a total area of 370 square miles. Only 20 per cent of this has been developed. The only way to achieve reasonable home prices is by developing the vast areas of land in the New Territories.

The Joint Declaration was signed in 1984, which made the New Territories an integral part of Hong Kong. Why has the government still not repealed the New Territories Ordinance?

It was enacted by the British colonial government only because of the New Territories lease for 99 years, which, by reason of the Joint Declaration, is no longer relevant. Repealing the ordinance will ensure that the entire Hong Kong special administrative region can be planned and developed as a whole and not piecemeal as is now being done.

There are obstacles to achieving this, but it is the duty and function of the government to overcome them.

Officials should have the foresight, ability, courage and political will to do what is necessary for Hong Kong’s future. It is the only way ahead.

Instead of shirking the problem by proposing expensive and impractical minor short-term solutions like reclamation, excavating caverns and increasing stamp duties, the government should immediately face the challenge of how to properly plan the future development of the New Territories. Repealing the New Territories Ordinance will be a good and necessary start.

It is ludicrous that in a small territory like Hong Kong, there should be two different classes of land and two different classes of people, with “indigenous villagers” having different legal rights. These differences must be abolished so that the New Territories can be developed the same way as any other part of Hong Kong.

Officials should provide the necessary leadership for Hong Kong before it is too late. Meanwhile, people are suffering from high land and housing prices and sporadic development is ruining the New Territories.

I call upon the government to immediately initiate a public consultation and to organise a public forum to examine how this can be achieved and what obstacles have to be overcome.

Winston Chu Ka-sun, founder, Society for Protection of the Harbour