Like the people of France, Hong Kong’s top government officials are grief-stricken and in distress as a cherished symbol crumbles. It’s not that Asia’s World City® has lost a historic cathedral. Quite the opposite – Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her team have just been handed 900 hectares of scarce land.
This surprise came from the High Court, which ruled that New Territories aboriginals could not claim the publicly owned real estate for building their ‘small houses’. But this is a gift our officials do not want.
They are counting on the local bumiputras’ supposed house-building rights to ensure that Hong Kong has a ‘shortage of land’. The ‘shortage of land’ is vital as the Insurmountable Hand-Wringing Problem that leads to sky-high housing prices that can only be solved by spending HK$1 trillion of (correlated/bloated) fiscal reserves on the Lantau Tomorrow White-Elephant Vision Reclamation project (approx 900 hectares, as luck would have it).
Officials are now running around in a panic, insisting to everyone that the land previously earmarked for the ‘New Territories mafia scam’ type of housing is not at all suitable for the ‘normal homes for everyone else’ variety, on account of corridors and slopes.
Most onlookers will be too mind-numbed to quibble. Still, the government’s most sacred task – the tireless invention of reasons why we can’t use existing land for homes – gets a little more challenging.