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Book Review: Land Administration and Practice in Hong Kong

Updated: May 15

FILE PHOTO: A Construction Site Sources © Envato


Author: Roger Nissim

ISBN: 9789888754069

Publisher: HKU Press

(HK, June, 2022)

One of essential Books for Hong Kong and Asian Studies

Roger’s book Land Administration and Practice in Hong Kong (5 editions published between 1998-2022) covers land administration (Lands Department / 地政總署) of Hong Kong government from the start of modernization (colonization by UK) 1841 to the post 1997 era the mid 2022. In general, there is no fatal flaw within the land administrative system itself to prevent this city from handling the apocalyptic, never-ending lands and housing issues according to this book. The systemic postponement and bureaucratic degradation of living standard of residents of this city are mainly about the operational aspect in the administrative process. Thus, any formal law amendment and reshuffling of the structure occurred in both pre-AELABM (Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement, March 15, 2019- January 7, 2021) and post-AELABM phases could not even improve the situation slightly or dramatically as citizens witnessed. In other words, Hong Kong’s lands and housing issues are artificially created by the vested interest groups (‘uneasy partners’, ‘neoliberal corporatists’, ‘cronies’, ‘朋黨’, ‘家天下’ , officially they themselves favourably name it ‘elitism’ which is literally stealth dictatorship by a small crony within the ruling class. The separation of cronies in this city is totally fake and shallow while they are enjoying cross-membership among various kinds of ‘crony front organizations’) . As a result, there are only two poles, one pole is politically, economically and culturally dominant monopolistic capital; the other pole of this class society is ‘fish and meat on the chopping blockprecariat. The only-growing poverty rate and only-widening income gap will cause two ultimate results, one is a riot; the other is an exodus. Hongkongers have only two ultimate political scenarios, either a riot or an exodus in permanent povertization. The latter EXODUS (at this moment, about 230,000 Hongkoners immigrated aboard recently) is a realistic peaceful solution for pure individuals as long as there are no genuinely independent and reliable opposition forces in this city to tackle aggravating social issues. In fact, Povertization (including endlessly raising the consumer prices) is a form of class warfare against the workers. This also prepares a social meltdown and acceleration of the process even though the ruling oligarchs of this city constantly import ‘overseas’ cheap mainland workers to try filling the growing gap. During the permanent povertization, if workers politically failed to solve grave social issues at the end, there will only be either a riot or an exodus.

In this book, Roger thinks there were lands and housing issues partially behind both the 1967 riot and 2019 AELABM correctly. Similarly, both political events led to introduction of new laws, such as Employment Ordinance (1968) for the former; HKNSL (2020) for the latter. Besides this, the HKSARG led by the HKGCC vassal John Lee Ka-chiu side also thinks that the lands and housing issues can be solved only by gradual increase of public housing units at the present pace including controversial ‘only can live for 5 years’ light public housing units without any structural change or negation of monopoly. In other words, they are trying to tackle the issue rather passively and negatively only by quantitative change not by any qualitative change to the entire ecology and framework of real-estate oligarchy (地產霸權). Hong Kong’s housing problem is due to speculation while total housing units (literally total of both public and private housing units; Hong Kong media only mention partial hording vacancies of private housing units) always exceed the number of total applications for public housing in general. So called ‘monopoly shortage’ is quite misleading in this respect.

Direct empirical observation in real-estate agencies of this city can confirm the fact that the real issue is affordability and affordable supply (of course, sub-divided units and other kinds of not-for-human-living accommodation units are themselves disastrous and should be illegalized) not genuine shortage of housing units itself.

Permanent living quarters 2,960,000 (as of September 2021)
Applications for public housing units 229,900 (as of December 2022)
Total number of families 2,681,900 (as of January 2023)

Permanent living quarters 2,960,000 - Total number of families 2,681,900 = 278,100 surplus units ‘available’ for applications for public housing units 229,900!

This means that so called ‘housing shortage’ is deceptively media and governmental concoction which is groundless in social totality of permanent housing units.

After HKSARG and its cronies successfully dismantled the ZERO-COVID national policy, monopolistic capital launched a series of price adjustment (raising consumer prices dramatically) in public sectors. There is deceptive public-relation manipulation that public utilities of Hong Kong are practically ‘not’ state-run yet it is run by monopolistic capital, thus it became neoliberal private business. Moreover, revenue loss in their any business sector in conglomerates is systematically compensated by either price adjustment (there is only raising the price endlessly without effective price cap) in other business sector or extortion of state subsidies via crony partnership. For electricity supply, two arms of monopolistic capital dominate the market, one is CLP Group (中華電力/中電) is run by Kadoorie family; other one is HK Electric Inv (港燈電力投資/港燈) is run by AmCham member, the richest HK tycoon, number one monopoly capitalist / real-estate oligarch, Li Ka-shing’s CK Asset Holdings (長江實業集團). They raised electricity fee since this March, 4.7 % for HK Electric Inv; 1.3% for CLP Group while they’re enjoying state-guaranteed revenue surpluses. For transportation, besides HKSARG-controlled MTR (which is also a real-estate company; 港鐵), there are examples of five bus companies, which are also unified arms of monopolistic capital collectively raising transportation fees in amidst of universal suffering from inflation. One is Long Win Bus Company Limited(龍運巴士有限公司)is run by one of real-estate oligarchs, Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited (新鴻基地產發展有限公司); the second is Kowloon Motor Bus (九龍巴士)is also run by one of real-estate oligarchs, Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited (新鴻基地產發展有限公司); the third is New World First Bus / New World First Bus Services Limited (城巴) is run by one of real-estate oligarchs, New World Development (新世界發展有限公司); the fifth is New Lantao Bus / New Lantao Bus Company(1973)Limited (新大嶼山巴士) is also run by one of real-estate oligarchs, New World Development (新世界發展有限公司).

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All of them are real-estate oligarchs (monopoly capital) of this city. The point is that raising public utility fees to raise real-estate rent and prices ultimately by lowering consumers’ affordability (wages/salaries) in social totality. If social wages and salaries are decreased by the surge of public utilit