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Book Review: Land Administration and Practice in Hong Kong

Updated: May 15, 2023


FILE PHOTO: A Construction Site Sources © Envato

BOOK DATA

Author: Roger Nissim

ISBN: 9789888754069

Publisher: HKU Press


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).


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 utility fees which does mean that general consumer prices get raised. One sinks, the other rises in practice. Meanwhile, cumulative effect of inflation (rising consumer prices) is confirmed by Composite Consumer Price Index (Year-on-year % change) 2023 2.4 % increase for January 2023 means that 2.4% decrease of affordability (wages/salaries) of consumers (mainly workers); 1.7% increase for February 2023 means that 1.7% decrease of affordability (wages/salaries) of consumers (mainly workers). Why it’s a cumulative effect? Because workers’ wages are decreasing ‘cumulatively’ in sequence. 2.4% decrease for January 2023; and 1.7% decrease for February 2023. The most importantly, any negative impact on consumers’ affordability, consuming power means rising real-estate rent and prices.


In the past, social critics only one-sidedly referred to the mechanism of 4 highs, such as the high land price, high housing price, high rent, and high consumer price. And always it’s thought that it functions as a series of price-rising chain reactions started from the high land price to the high consumer price. It’s right as only one cycle of it yet it’s not holistic, and people are witnessing the reverse process that raising the public utility prices is causing chain reactions in the reverse direction for raising the property prices and rent at the end by decreasing social wages. It is equal with rising property prices as a scheme of real-estate oligarchy. Again, decrease of wages (affordability) means rising consumer prices even without nominal increase in prices. This is the trick, a class warfare against workers.


For the linked exchange rate system (1972-1974; 1983-; 2005-) between USD and HKD in the range 1 USD = average 7.8 HKD (see United States Dollar to Hong Kong Dollar), the main driving factor is Renminbi to HKD exchange rate manipulation yet the fixed exchange rate between USD and HKD is often referred as a background factor for high lands and housing prices of this city without clear description. In fact, the linked exchange rate was 'refined' in 2005 while China was pro-US and following the US capitalist path. For real-estate oligarchs and their bunch of speculators, the linked exchange rate means that HKD-expressed housing prices are 1/7.8 HKD if they use USD for transactions of properties. Furthermore, the developing cost is also 1/7.8 HKD as long as they use USD for transactions. Undoubtedly, it’s desirable for the movement of capital as cost saving. Also 1:7.8 means that our HKD properties in all forms are only worth 1/7.8 HKD in USD. The linked (fixed) exchange rate itself is pro-US policy that encourages USD transactions in this region. In other words, real-estate oligarchs are part of US interest. And HKSARG is defending the US interest by the linked exchange rate. This is something fundamentally contradicts their ‘love the country, love Hong Kong’ patriotic narrative(PR).


Real Political Parties of Hong Kong (Real-estate Party, Capital Construction Party and Consultation Party)


Any big construction projects of this city are one of vital sources for their capital gains. If the real-estate party - including vassals in the establishment - gets or launches a ‘project’, the capital construction party is involved in it to construct the building or infrastructure with evaluation research or PR support by the (international) consultation party. Genuine ruling political parties of Hong Kong are the real-estate party / 地產黨, capital construction party / 基建黨 and consultation party / (國際)顧問黨 who are representing internal and external capital and governments. In Hong Kong, there is no political force faithfully represents the working-class people and the class interests. In this article, the financial party / 金融黨 is excluded as the real-estate party includes the financial party to some extent.


The most important thing is that real-estate party / 地產黨 (mainly represented by the big four conglomerates, such as CK Asset Holdings; Henderson Development Limited; Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited; New World Development) is not the whole ruling political force, there are always hidden political forces, such as capital construction party / 基建黨 (represented by Gammon Construction Limited / 金門建築; Leighton Asia / 禮頓亞洲; Bouygues S.A. / 布依格; Dragages Hong Kong as part of Bouygues / 香港寶嘉建築; SOCAM Development Limited / 瑞安建業有限公司; now defunct Hsin Chong Group / 新昌集團; Hip Hing Construction Company Limited as part of New World Development / 協興建築; Sanfield (Management) Limited as part of Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited /新輝(建築管理)有限公司; Yee Fai Construction Co Ltd as part of Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited / 怡輝建築有限公司; Chun Wo Development Holdings Limited / 俊和發展集團有限公司等) and consultation party / (國際)顧問黨 (represented by Consulum FZ LLC (Consulum); MSLGROUP; Edelman etc.). As mentioned above, it’s quite obvious that capital construction party / 基建黨 is the direct arms of the real-estate party / 地產黨. Moreover, all of them are mixture of internal and external capital. As the economic basis of Hong Kong politics, their multi-nationalities do not fit the official Chinese nationalist narrative of ‘love the country, love Hong Kong.’ In other words, so called ‘pro-establishment’ and traditional ‘opposition’ are mixed representatives of internal and external capital forces neither of them solely represents the internal force. This is why Hong Kong political, business, and cultural figures are generally two-faced or multi-faced (basically the same ‘capitalist cronies’ are dominating many public titles and organizational seats in various social sectors and statutory bodies beyond their own profession while no one can do 3 to 30 supposedly full-time jobs in different industries simultaneously. This is why social standard and living standard are only endlessly lowered under their ineffectiveness of crony monopoly). There are bunch of compradors and speculators instead of traditionally single-minded, childish, pure, imaginative patriots. Thus, true patriots can only be found in the workers. One of important news of this subject is that pro-HKNSL, ‘nationalist’, ‘pro-establishment’ PR campaign ‘Relaunch Hong Kong’ (香港重新出發, 2020-2021) was outsourced to the international consultation PR firm, Consulum FZ LLC for 6,289,215USD.


It was broadly seen as a huge waste of tax payers’ money (See 「4400萬元」國際公關報告 日本對香港觀感最差 籲定位聚焦經濟重建營商信心). Other tenders were also from the five eyes and the West. It undeniably revealed the two-faced nature of HKSARG and the entire ‘pro-establishment’ camp amid anti-China AELABM (2019-2021).


In fact, many famous international PR leading companies have withdrawn their bids beforehand. According to the industry information website PRovoke, the French leading company MSL had withdrawn its bid earlier, and according to this media report, the U.S. PR leading company Edelman had also bid for the " Relaunch Hong Kong" contract, but after Beijing decided to enact the "Hong Kong National Security Law", U.S. President Donald Trump indicated that there was a chance to sanction China and Hong Kong, and Edelman then immediately withdrew his bid. The government's Information Services Department announced Monday that seven bids were received. Consulum FZ LLC won a one-year contract worth US$6.28 million for the "Relaunch Hong Kong" public relations program. Consulum will develop a communications strategy and marketing plan for the Hong Kong government, and will conduct local and international research to develop a crisis management plan that aims to "restore confidence in Hong Kong as a place to invest, do business and live and work."


事實上,國際多家著名的公關龍頭公司,在此之前都撤回標書。根據業界資訊網站PRovoke披露,法國龍頭的MSL早前已經撤回標書,另根據此間傳媒報道,美國公關龍頭Edelman亦曾投標“香港重新出發”的合約,但北京決定訂立“港區國安法”後,美國總統特朗普表明有機會制裁中方和香港,Edelman當時隨即撒回標書。政府新聞處周一公布,“香港重新出發”公關服務計畫共接獲7份標書,由Consulum FZ LLC投得,合約價值628萬美元,服務為期一年。新聞處指,Consulum將為港府制訂傳訊策略及市場推廣等計畫,並會進行本地及國際研究,以制訂危機管理計畫,目的是要“重振外界對香港作為投資、營商和安居樂業之地的信心。”


SAR government officials play a relatively detached role in public works. In the past 20 years or so, Hong Kong's major infrastructure projects were basically the direct responsibility of those few foreign companies through outsourcing, with all responsibilities falling on the consultants. However, if effective cost control is to be carried out, it is necessary for officials to be involved and become the main responsible person, whether before tendering or outsourcing. Singapore's outsourcing model requires cooperation between the government and academic bodies, involves knowledge transfer, and even involves cooperation with local technology companies. The current tendering system in Hong Kong does not reflect this concept very well, and favours the "lowest price bidder", and does not require anyone to be responsible for the overall participation and even if the project overruns.


If you look at the current top tier of large public works projects in Hong Kong, the Development Bureau is the policy bureau, the Treasury Bureau and the Financial Secretary need to conduct financial audits, and the Department of Justice is responsible for drafting the tender contracts. There has not been much innovation in the tender contracts over the years, and many of them still follow the model of the 1990s. This has led to a problem: At present, the consultancy fee is still linked to the project fee in Hong Kong, so the higher the project fee, the higher the consultancy fee. This model is not reasonable and should be decoupled from the project fee, so that different types of projects should have different types of consultant fees.


特區政府官員在公共工程扮演着一個相對抽離的角色。過去二十多年香港的大型基建,基本上都是那幾家外國公司透過外判模式直接負責,所有責任都落在顧問身上。但如果要進行有效的成本控制,不論在招標或外判之前,其實都需要官員參與,成為主體責任人。新加坡的外判模式是需要政府和學術團體合作,涉及知識轉移,甚至乎要和本地技術公司合作。香港目前的招標制度並沒有很好地體現這一觀念,偏重「價低者得」,而且對總體上的參與而且就算工程超支,也不需要有任何人負上責任。


  那麼看看香港目前大型公共工程的頂層建築,發展局是政策局,庫務局和財政司需要進行財務審核,律政司負責草擬招標合約。招標合約多年來沒有怎樣革新,很多都是仍然沿用上世紀九十年代的模式。那麼便出現了一個問題:目前香港仍然是顧問費與工程費掛鈎的,所以工程費越高、顧問費便相應提高。這種模式並不合理,應該是顧問費與工程費脫鈎,不同類型的工程應該有不同類型的顧問收費標準,才是合理。


Tendering and outsourcing are a symbiosis. Tender is awarded to the lowest price bidder, how to write the tender? How is it written? At present, the Hong Kong government's tenders are basically tailor-made for western international companies, and it is very difficult for Hong Kong SMEs to enter government projects. There is another strange phenomenon, that is, some people with the brand names of British and American companies, after getting the government-funded projects, then outsourced to some local companies, and those local companies then outsourced to some real front-line staff working. This kind of subcontracting is entirely caused by the Hong Kong government.


Look at Singapore. In Singapore, many public works and government services are tendered before they are negotiated, and the officials in charge of the project must study it first to determine how much it is reasonable to spend on it. For example, the new wing of Singapore Changi International Airport, which was developed by a Japanese contractor step by step, the final price was arrived at after a very sophisticated study and analysis, nothing like Hong Kong, such as the exaggerated, everything over 10 billion over 100 billion, to make a small project of a few hundred square feet also cost more than 20 million dollars this strange phenomenon.


The government adopts the outsourcing and tendering model because the administrative officers are not experts and do not know anything. What they know is only administrative procedures, so they use administrative procedures to deal with professional issues, resulting in the current situation in Hong Kong - monopolized by large companies, wasting a lot of public resources.


To promote industrial development in Hong Kong, we need to support SMEs. Tender outsourcing system must be set up more flexible, should not use the lowest price bidder to win. The Architectural Services Department classifies architectural design firms into three levels, and the level is not determined by the architect's design ability, but basically only by the architect's administrative ability and the number of engineers. In other words, it is the "quantity" to determine the level of an architect firm, rather than the "quality" to determine. This unreasonable situation, monopolized by large companies, has made Hong Kong the most backward city.


It is an international joke for Hong Kong to ask a major British or American firm with no experience in old districts to redevelop the old Yau Tsim Mong district. In fact, Hong Kong's projects are always carried out by the same three or two British and American companies, either A or B or C. How can this be innovative? Hong Kong's local architects are already shrinking, and there is a brain drain to the mainland. This situation is not only happening in the architect sector, but also in the technology sector.


招標和外判是一個共生體。招標價低者得,招標書如何書寫?怎樣書寫?香港政府目前的招標,基本上都是為西方國際公司度身訂造的,香港中小企很難打進政府項目裏面。於是又會出現另外一些奇怪現象,就是有些人拿着英美公司的品牌,拿到政府資助項目之後,又再外判給一些本地公司,那些本地公司再外判給一些真正在做事的前線人員。這種判上判完全是香港政府造成的。


看看新加坡。新加坡很多公務工程與政府服務在招標前是先進行議價,負責項目的官員要先研究它,研判需要花多少錢去做才是合理。例如新加坡樟宜國際機場的新翼,它是由日本承建商一步一步去發展出來的,最後的價格都是經過非常精密的研究和分析得出來,丁點也沒有像香港這樣誇張,什麼都過百億過千億,弄出一個幾百呎的小工程也要耗費二千多萬元這種奇怪現象。


政府採用外判和招標模式,是因為政務官不是專家,什麼都不懂。他們懂的只是行政程序,所以就用行政程序去處理專業問題,結果弄致香港目前這個狀況——被大公司壟斷,浪費大量公共資源。


香港要推動產業發展,需要支持中小企。招標外判制度必須要設定得更有靈活彈性,不應該用價低者得。建築署把建築設計公司分為三級,級別不是以建築師的設計能力決定,基本上只看建築師的行政能力及有多少工程師。換言之,是以「量」去決定一家建築師公司的級別,而不是以「質」去決定。這種由大型公司壟斷的不合理狀況,已經令香港成為最落後的城市。


香港找根本沒有任何舊區經驗能力的英美大公司去做油尖旺的舊區重建,本身就是一個國際笑話。事實上,香港的工程來來去去都是那三兩家英美公司,不是A就是B或C。這樣如何能夠創新?香港本地建築師已經在萎縮,人才也在流失,流向內地。這個狀況不單只在建築師界發生,其實科技界也有這個狀況。


Mathias Woo suggested that the Hong Kong government and The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers should explain to the public: Why is the cost of engineering in Hong Kong so expensive? Is it normal for Hong Kong to be dominated by a few large British, American, and Western companies?


胡恩威提出,香港政府與工程師學會應該向市民解釋:為什麼香港工程費用這麼昂貴?香港目前由幾家英美西方大公司主導是否正常?


The real-estate party / 地產黨 and capital construction party / 基建黨 dominate journalism, culture and art industries


For the film industry (today there is no more independent domestic ‘Hong Kong film’ industry as mainland dominantly oversees film production for ‘Hong Kong, China films’), the political situation is the same as other sectors. One of cronies from the real-estate party and capital construction party is called Wilfred Wong Ying-wai (王英偉) who used to be vice-CEO of a real-estate company K. Wah International Holdings /嘉華國際集團有限公司, ex-general manager of a subsidiary of Henderson Development Limited, Henderson China Holdings / 恒基中國集團, ex-vice chairman of a capital construction company SOCAM Development Limited / 瑞安建業, and now he works as a CEO of Sands China Limited / 金沙中國有限公司 under the US-capital Las Vegas Sands Corp /拉斯維加斯金沙集團. It means that he is a typical Hong Kong comprador who is two-faced politically as one of ‘National People's Congress’ united-front guests during 1998-2012.


In general, casino business is openly authorized triad business. Wilfred Wong Ying-wai as a chairman dominates Hong Kong’s film events in his one hand, such as Hong Kong International Film Festival / 香港國際電影節電影業辦公室(HKIFF Industry)(as 香港國際電影節協會主席), Hong Kong International Film Festival-run Hong Kong - Asia Film Financing Forum / 香港亞洲電影投資會 (as 香港國際電影節協會主席), Asian Film Awards / 亞洲電影大獎學院 (Asian Film Awards Academy, only 8 cronies) and a de facto statutory body Hong Kong Film Development Council / 香港電影發展局 (HKFDC is a 'voter' of Hong Kong Film Awards / 香港電影金像獎)etc.. Mainly, he was a vice CEO (2011), CEO (2012-2015; HCG defunct in 2020) of now the defunct capital construction company Hsin Chong Group / 新昌集團, and those film events are managed while he is a managerial representative of the real-estate, capital construction and casino private interests not public interests of any kinds. In other words, now HKIFF, HKA, AFA and even HKFDC are in hands of the US and Sands China Limited via Wilfred Wong Ying-wai. This is a sheer example of monopoly by the real-estate, capital construction parties. It is obvious that Wilfred Wong Ying-wai and 7 cronies do not represent the entire city while there is no universal suffrage for those film events. Moreover, so called ‘success’ is not defined by those monopolistic capitalist cronies’ biased qualification and acceptance as they are totally groundless in the entire social scale. What kind of ‘generous’ non-profit organization is this? There is no doubt that Hong Kong films can be revived only after liberation from the monopoly of Wilfred Wong Ying-wai and his cronies. It is ridiculous that as if HK filmmakers’ goal is to flatter Wilfred Wong Ying-wai and to be accepted by Wilfred Wong Ying-wai and his cronies? Unfortunately, not only Hong Kong film production is funded by a triad, but also film events are funded and managed by a triad.


In this book, Roger could not explain why systematically working conditions of the working class of this city are aggravated by the real-estate party and capital construction party. As mentioned above, the ‘custom-made’ tender system for bigger Western construction companies caused the chain of exploitation on subcontractors by the original successful bidders as internationally well-known for Dentsu-Hakuhodo cases. This is an origin of unregular workers, precariat. At the end, readers can find that the ‘flawless’ lands administration system and the economic mode of this city are origins of the miseries of workers and crony capitalism. Lands and hosing are the economic base for running the entire society. The gravest social issues are symbolized as an endless povertization of precariat which will be ended up in either a riot or exodus. This is the meltdown process of this crony capitalist city of the ‘Marxist’ China. Some points of this book are important to refer here:


1. Landlord is HKSARG; and landowners are people who renting lands from the only landlord, HKSARG.

2. The colonialist leasehold land system is not any kind of Marxist policy at all. The land lease system from the colonial era is itself a colonialist system without suzerainty of UK. Thus, correctly there is no literal ‘land sale’ in this city at all. Every land is leased for a certain period of time and designated purpose.

3. HKSARG as a landlord is able to make a private contract which can’t be challenged by any public review. Thus, HKSARG has two hands (private and executive power) that effectively can deal with different categories of lands and property issues.

4. The first Lands and property issue of this city was speculation from the beginning of the colonial era. It’s still the same at present.

6. Not only male NT natives are enjoying the small house policy which is subject to discretion of Lands Department. New Territories Exempted Houses include small houses and other kinds of houses. The exemption applied to all NT landowners not only male indigenous inhabitants.

7. 48 months (4 years) is the standard building covenant period. Basically, 4 years to complete a project.


Highlights of the book below:


Introduction xi Section I Historical Development of Land Administration 1. The First Land Sales, 1841–1842 3 ‘It appears that speculation in land in Hong Kong started right from the beginning.’ (p.3) 2. The Early Years, 1843–1898 9 ‘Local merchants were complaining that the rent were too high owing to insufficient land being put up for auction which they claimed had resulted in imbalanced competition that forced up rents.’(pp.11-12) 3. 1898 Onwards: The New Territories Lease 16 ‘…the government could no longer control the use of agricultural land (which made up much of the rural land in the NT) under the Block Government lease…and inexcusably did not plug the loophole with new statutory planning legislation for rural areas in the NT until 1991. This resulted in the proliferation of open storage and other unsightly uses in the flat areas of the NT.’ (pp.18-19) 4. The Sino-British Joint Declaration 1984 and the Basic Law 1990 26 ‘There were comments expressed from time to time that the 50-hectare quota was an artificial constraint on land supply.’ (p.30) 5. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government 36 ‘Affordability remains a huge ongoing problem and was one of the underlying reasons behind the political protests. The government’s only practical remedy to this situation is to ramp up the supply of subsidised home ownership units.’ ‘It is often forgotten in all the debates about housing that the government has already provided a significant 43.3 % of all the private living quarters with the Hong Kong Housing Authority being one of the biggest landlords in the world!’(p.44) Section II Present-Day Land Administration 6. Economic Background, Land Needs, and Reclamations 49 ‘The current planning system is weak in this area because at present there is no proper statutory procedure whereby the proposed land uses that are planned for the new reclamation are required to be considered and approved by the Town Planning Board (TPB) with full and proper consultation before the reclamation is gazetted.’ (p.54) ‘In particular, a number of large developers have assembled significant land banks of agricultural land, mostly situated along existing or planned railway lines in the New Territories. These land banks measure in the tens of millions of square feet and the government needs to facilitate and encourage their early development to help meet the current shortage of supply rather than trying to plug this gap by rezoning Green Belt or Country Park land for residential development.’ (p.56) 7. Lands Department Functions under Administrative Law 58 ‘What the decision [1981-HKIR336; 1981-WLR1141] essentially states is that each lease executed is a private transaction with appropriate contractual rights and that such transactions cannot be considered as performing an executive function and therefore are not susceptible to judicial review.’ (p.58) 8. Land Exchange and Lease Modifications 74 ‘There is one very important administrative rule within the Lands Department to the effect that no significant modification will be entertained within the first five years of any new lease.’(p.78) 9. Development Control in Older Lease Conditions 84 [Design, Disposition, and Height Clause]…in the older version, design relates not to the buildings as such but merely to the exterior elevations of the building whereas in the newer version, the word design relates specifically to the building or buildings.’ (p.89) 10. Access Arrangements and Rights-of-Way 94 11. Town Planning Controls and Development Restrictions in Lease Conditions 97 [1971-AC508; 1926-272-US365]… it is well settled that restrictions on the use of property imposed in the public interest by general regulatory laws do not constitute a deprivation of that property for which compensation should be paid. (p.100)

12. Land Management and Lease Enforcement 108 ‘All structures have been given a survey number and in addition may have a licence, permit or approval from the Land Authority.’ (p.109) Section III Land Administration Problems and Practice Associated with the New Territories 13. Land Exchange Entitlements (Also Known as Letters A/B) 123 [The birth of real-estate oligarchy of today] Only in the extreme depths of despair during the 1967 riots were Letter A/B owners known to have come forward and asked the government to take them back and give them cash at their face value. So, it was a win-win situation; the government got land without paying cash or interest and without damaging confrontations; the landowners were given a speculative future in land which they could trade; the architectures of this scheme could not possibly have envisaged the full consequences of what they created! (p.127) 14. Small House Policy and the 300-Foot Rule 129 ‘Currently, the grant permits the grantee to erect a house not exceeding 700 square feet (65.03 squarer meters) in area and 27 feet (8.23 meters) and three storeys in height, which does not require the employment of an authorized person (AP) or approval of building plans under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap.123) (BO). This exemption applies to all landowners in the NT and is not presently limited to indigenous villagers.’ (p.129) 15. Limitations Ordinance, Adverse Possession, and the Principle of Encroachment 139 ‘In legal term, to qualify as adverse possession, the adverse possessor must show that he had continuous physical control inconsistent with the rights of the true owner and the use for which the true owner intends to put the land. There must also be factual evidence of this possession; presumably, rate demands and payments for public utilities would be admissible.’ (p.141) 16. Tsos and Tongs and Their Impact on Land Assembly 144 ‘Tsos and tongs are administered by managers and Section 15 of the NTO requires that these appointments be reported to, approved, and recorded by the Secretary for Home Affairs (SHA). The same section confers on managers the power to dispose of or in any way deal with the said land as if he were the sole power thereof, subject to the consent of the SHA. The SHA must also be satisfied that the sale is for a good purpose (undefined!) and that all the members have signified their unanimous agreement to the transaction.’ (p.145) 17. Succession 147 18. Fung Shui and Graves 149 19. Boundary Disputes, Missing Lots, Missing Documents, and Secondary Evidence 152 ‘…owners of individual lots and potential purchasers can avail themselves of the services of an authorized land surveyor (ALS), whose work is now governed by a code of conduct spelt out in the Land Survey Ordinance, Cap. 473 (LSO), in order to resolve or clarify any boundary disputes.’ (p. 152) ‘[Missing Documents] There are also cases in the NT, usually attributed to the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during the Second World War, when many documents were destroyed and where the government cannot trace the original lease conditions.’ (p.154) Section IV Future Developments in Land Administration 20. How Planning and Land Policy Could Be Used to Enhance Conservation in Hong Kong 159 ‘Conservation isn’t just about preserving the past but also managing the pace of change.’ (p.166) 21. The Land Titles Ordinance 2004 170 ‘At present, a person claiming an interest in land under a transaction which has not been reduced to writing cannot register the claim in the lands Registry because only written claims to land may be registered.’ (p.172) Appendices 177 Glossary 211 Bibliography 214 Index 217


 

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