Non-silence of the Lam

Like Alice’s Queen, who could believe in six impossible things before breakfast, it seems Hong Kong is being invited to imagine something unattainable every day in the lead-up to CY Leung’s arrival in office on July 1. Yesterday, we had ex-Monetary Authority boss Joseph Yam suggesting we ditch the dollar peg and give ourselves the nice strong currency we deserve. And today, Development Secretary Carrie Lam ponders the abolition of the New Territories indigenous villagers’ small-house policy.

It is not the swiftest, most vengeful of abolitions that she has in mind. The career bureaucrat and (rumoured) Chief Secretary-to-be “sees an opportunity to propose an end to the policy in the next five years.” Assuming that they take this ‘opportunity to propose’, our officials – or their descendants – would actually scrap the handouts of land for three-storey villas in 2047, thus ending it for eligible recipients born after 2029. But wait! There’s more! She says: “the government may need to give something to villagers in return when the policy is ended.”

In return for what, she doesn’t say. My hunch is she means ‘in return for not lynching every District Officer north of Boundary Street and not invading Central and burning it to the ground’. New Territories natives, represented by the mafia-like Heung Yee Kuk, have violently defended their ‘traditional rights’ ever since being colonized in 1898. Like the property tycoons, Beijing courted and cultivated them in the run-up to the handover in 1997, giving them an overweening sense of entitlement. But unlike the tycoons, a withdrawal of protection from on high doesn’t perturb them: they don’t answer to anyone on high in the first place. Carrie admits as much when she tells the SCMP it is ‘hard to enforce the law’ up there. This is buried away in the middle of page C3, but really belongs on the front page, not to mention in a stiff message to the Secretary of Security and in a report to Beijing…

In theory, the small (as in 2,100-sq-ft) house policy is a 1970s administrative decision that could be reversed with the stroke of a pen tomorrow morning. In practice, it is something the New Territories natives will fight to the death over. Originally designed to give poor farmers’ sons a place to raise a family not too far from the pigs, it has become a meal ticket for life as beneficiaries rent out two, if not all three, floors (plus the extra unauthorized one).

Judging from her tone in the SCMP articles, Carrie sounds jolly pleased with herself for even mentioning the subject. Officials have swept the issue under the carpet for years, but they now have to consider non-indigenous residents’ resentment of the aborigines’ privileges. This came to a head with recent proposals to treat village illegal structures more leniently than urban ones, which led to that burning sense of injustice that flares up in Hong Kong when one group gets a benefit that another does not.

My favourite example of this was when the Mid-Levels Escalator opened. Operating in a downhill direction until 10.30am, it was of no help to the schoolgirls who walked up to Caine Road every morning. The students’ need to make this daily climb, which had been going on for decades, suddenly became ‘unfair’. However, the schoolgirls did not demand that the Escalator be dismantled. Most urban residents, on the other hand, would gladly pull the plug on the small house policy right now.

We might oppose the system because of the myriad abuses, the sexual inequality and its unsustainable nature as currently structured. But essentially we resent the basic principle that the indigenous villagers can get affordable homes. So why not extend the principle and allow every Hong Kong resident some space for personal dwelling – albeit in a high-rise – free of excessive government land/lease payment? (Of course this would be ‘unfair’ to existing apartment owners who overpaid; we would probably have to send some Mid-Levels schoolgirls to convince them to just live with it.)

In sum: scrap the bloated tax on homes via the high land-price policy that is imposed on everyone except lucky NT indigenous males. Maybe this will be tomorrow’s impossible thing.

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24 Responses to Non-silence of the Lam

  1. Bela Lugosi says:

    The march of progress.

    The lamenting of the greedy backward unwashed. Tycoons in chains.

    Toerags foaming with rage. The bourgeois forced into political consciousness and shock redemption.

    Can’t wait!

    Long live The Chinese New Left! Better than the Olympics!

  2. Spike says:

    The abuse of the small house policy is even wider spread than you realize. It goes far beyond an indigenous villager buying a home and renting it out. As soon as a woman in NT get pregnant, the real estate companies start knocking on the door, willing to buy the “birth right” to build a house for HK$1 million or more. It’s a huge abuse of the system.

  3. Trog says:

    Is NO-ONE in the least bit interested in the SCMP’s second p1 story about the HK govt’s complicity in the secret rendition of a Libyan dissident and his young family from CLK, with the connivance of British, US and no doubt Chinese secret services? Are we so up our own myopic arses that we hand on every word of a bureaucrat making pre- govt promises which she almost ceratinly will be unable to keep. Come on Hemlock, broaden your horizons for once.

  4. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    No one is stopping you from starting your own blog drawing attention to such injustices, Trog.

  5. Longtimenosee says:

    By the same measure, I was born on the peak. My ancestors were amoungst the first inhabitants of the area.
    Were’s me fookin free plot of high elevation HK land?

  6. Morgan (capital M, small organ) says:

    it couldn’t possibly be that the Libyan ‘dissident’ is angling for a nice juicy pay-out ?

  7. Stephen says:

    Like the property tycoons, Beijing courted and cultivated them in the run-up to the handover in 1997, giving them an overweening sense of entitlement.

    Spot on. However as Hong Kong now inches its way to a more inclusive political system (I’m loathed to say democratic because I still think the CCP have a trick or two more up their sleeve) then presumably support of the Kuk is no longer needed to govern?

    Carrie Lam is probably the most competent government official there has been in some time and if she can rouse the urbanites to the cause and the CCP then who knows she might be in with a fighting chance of stopping this insanity.

    Alternatively the administration could wheel out Sir David Aching Bones to inform the Kuk of the ‘original legislative intent’ of the small homes policy? Where have I heard that before ?

  8. darovia says:

    Trog – That’s correct, no one gives a [email protected]@ and neither should you. The guy is Al Queda trained and hardly the wronged and innocent family man. Do you think his heart would bleed if your ‘rights’ were violated? Let’s hope this wimpish goverment doesn’t buckle and pay him squillions.

  9. Regislea says:

    When I lived in Mid-levels, I used to see the Caine Road schoolgirls walking up as I was being conveyed down. I have to say that they all, without exception, had great legs!

    The Law of Unintended Consequences.

  10. Alfred Bester says:

    Hoorah for Carrie Lam !!

    In fact hoorah for anyone prepared to even remotely criticise the self serving, lawless thugs of the Heung Yee Kuk, let alone anyone attacking their ultimate pork barrel of free land (in Hong Kong of all places). Unfortunately CLam will now never again be able to park her car anywhere in the New Territories, at least not if she values her tyres, windscreens, unscratched paintwork, etc.

    Apart from scrapping the small house policy, let’s go one step further with some basic urban planning in new territories to really upset the KYK in their increasingly desperate attempts to cram more and more 3 story villa’s inside existing village boundaries. Nothing to radical; just basic stuff like adequate fire separation between houses, emergency vehicle access, no open drains, town sewage connection prior to occupancy certificate, public path lighting, adequate parking spaces, childrens and sporting facilities and, dare I mention it, no illegal structures. All this stuff is in the way too hard basket for “our” bureaucrats running Asia’s world city.

  11. Trog says:

    Brits were quite happy to have him for years before Blair kissed and made up with that lovely bloke Gadaffi. You twats believe anything the Brits and yanks feed ya. Besides, the story isn’t who he is, it is the mechanism by which he was sent back. If he was guilty of terriorist crimes – like Gadaffi – extradite the cnut in public and put him before a public court. China, Brit, US and Libya secret services acting in concert. If that makes you comfortable, your certainly in the right place.

  12. Trog says:

    ..and ofcourse he’s angling for a payout. Wouldn’t you?

  13. Real Tax Payer says:

    I go with Alfred Bester

    Fuk the HYK

    Sh1t – they have milked us long enough so FUK them all

  14. PropertyDeveloper says:

    I’ve lived in “small houses” for more than 15 years, and I couldn’t live in a high-rise any more, with people shouting in your ear in the lifts, no greenery, traffic noise and claustrophobic parking.

    I’ve never understood either the 100% difference in prices between properties in the same location, when you can own the whole house (and so make any alterations you want without consulting anyone). I suppose the reason must be the neighbours…

  15. resentfulrose says:

    will the HYK on Lamma please explain why they have to fill in ex food producing fields, ( bearing in mind food from China is covered in festering poisons) with asbestos, unwanted diesel, porta loo contents after a dragon boat festival… you name it… the land is taking it, when these people have been here for nearly 3,500 years husbanding the land? How is it that a civilization as old as this is so easily turned into careless, polluting fuckw1ts? Surely there must be people still alive who remember what it is to grow up in a unpolluted place? But the rest of us have to witness the slow degradation of these green fields one by sorry one as we wend our weary way home at night, smelling the ginger flowers mixed in with sewage and fuel. And they think they are VIPs? Village Idiot People more like.

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Alfred Bester

    Need more of your common-sense input

    Please ( seriously)

  17. Delboy says:

    Yahoo Hemmers!!!!! I live in an abbo’s pigstye and pay lots for the privilage to do so. Can’t wait for CY to hang the bastard landlords and hand me the lease to the property.

    Ooooops. The ‘real’ landlords is this effing government.

    Oh well. Lets hang them all. Starting with AZ and MR please.

    BBQ and drinks and the cuntryclub July 2nd boys and girls?

  18. Real Tax Payer says:

    Hemlock : sometimes you really do hit the nail dead on the head

    This Big Lychee was one of those occasions when you really got to the depth of the issue

    May it be preserved in cyber-space forever, because that’s where it deserves a place of honour

  19. Alfred Bester says:

    @Real Tax Payer,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ll try to keep the common sense coming. Next two cabs off the rank are:

    * the ridiculous plans by CEDD to reclaim ten large chunks of the harbour mainly in unspoilt areas. Just to get the scale this includes: linking Peng Chau with Hei Ling Chau, linking Po Toi Island with Beaufort Island, a 400 hectare extension to north Lamma, and reclaiming 1,500 hectares just south of Cheung Chau which is 6 times the current size of that island.

    * I suspect the fight over the EPD mega incinerator location is far from over. It was great victory for common sense when the Legco environmental panel unanimously voted down Edward Yau’s proposal for the Shek Kwa Chau site. However, HK still produces way to much garbage per person compared to other cities, which needs to be disposed of somehow.

  20. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Just one clarification to Hemlock’s piece, to distinguish between village houses and villagers’ houses.

    The inalienable right/privilege/custom/administrative measure of building 10-storey houses in or fairly near villages, together with that of filling in ponds and wetlands with construction waste, planting trees, being buried, burning down mountains, pouring cement, parking, building toll-roads and intimidating the AFCD are those of indigenous villagers, even if they’re 7/8ths white-skinned and 4th generation emigrants. Even if land or houses are sold, the rights/privileges/customs/administrative measures are “probably” not transferred.

  21. Big Al says:

    So, we have a rallying call for the 1st July March – “Fuck the Kuk”!

  22. Big Al says:

    @ Alfred

    Actually, Hong Kong’s per capita domestic waste GENERATION rate is not that high compared to other, ahem, world cities. The problem is that our waste DISPOSAL rate is too high, because not enough waste is diverted to reuse/recycling – only stuff with intrinsic value, such as metals, paper and plastics. This is simply because landfilling is free to the user and there is no financial incentive to reuse/recycle – effectively, government is subsidising the least appropriate form of waste management, i.e., landfill disposal. We need a hefty waste charge to level the playing field … and don’t get me started on construction waste!

  23. Will.I.Be says:

    @Alfred Bester

    Indeed! I used to make dismissive sarcastic jokes about cementing over the whole bloody Victoria Harbour whenever some new useless mega project came along…. but NOT to be outdone by reality… Hong Kong basically proposes basically just that. Land Reclamation as far as the eye can see.

    NUTS!!!

  24. appalachian fan club (NT district) says:

    @ Alfred B

    The Heung Yee Kuk’s political power demands the scrutiny that you suggest.

    Henry the Horse’s *outreach* to HYK has already been documented.

    Hemmers – how about some more investigation and analysis? HYK exerts extraordinary influence – could this be a topic for a book about those who have (hidden) influence in HK?

    Of course, like Property Developer, I live in a ‘small house’ (ie 2100 sq ft) with ‘orrible neighbours’. But what exactly is your recourse when the local branch of HYK scratches his keys against your car / accidentally drops acid on the bonnet / walks past your tyres while wearing stirrups?

    It’s not as if we have devalued your property by moving here!

    The local chief of police is a de facto buddy – and after the third or fourth key- scratching of our car, he dragged the village elected rep (HYK) into my house by the scruff of his neck; lined up an official translator; and explained that if the car scratching continued, he would have no alternative but to close all road access to our village (because his job is to prevent crime and this seemed to be the only solution).

    My

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