Hong Kong has long been grappling with the problem of acute land shortage.
The government has adopted policy initiatives such as urban renewal programs, reclamation, and the development of idle land in the New Territories to address the issue.
From many years of observation, I have realized that land in the New Territories is of a special nature, but it is not a privilege. From the custom of Tso and Tong land, one can see that the indigenous residents of the New Territories have a deep sense of their culture and traditions, and would like to preserve and sustain them.
However, it is perhaps little known that there is a vast piece of untapped land in the New Territories: the Long Valley plain in the northern New Territories.
Recently, Alvan Hau Wing-kong of the Sheung Shui District Rural Committee invited me to visit the area.
I just couldn’t believe there is such a vast tract of land – about 37 hectares – that has remained undeveloped for decades until I saw it with my own eyes.
Lying at the intersection of Sheung Yue and Shek Sheung rivers, Long Valley is a vast and fertile alluvial plain where several rural villages and historical sites are located.
Regrettably, such a rich and huge piece of land hasn’t been used to its full potential, largely because it has been declared off-limits to developers by conservation groups.
True, from an environmental point of view, Long Valley is an ideal natural habitat for a wide variety of local species of birds and amphibians.
And I do believe that most indigenous clansmen in the New Territories are not averse to the concept of environmental conservation at all.
My point, however, is that it would be totally unfair to the indigenous inhabitants of the New Territories if we insist on conserving the natural environment at the expense of their rightful economic interests.
Simply put, we cannot, and should not, deprive the indigenous clansmen of their legitimate right to build homes or embark on development projects on their land just to ensure that urban residents can come to watch birds and flowers on weekends.
My two main points are: first, land in the New Territories bears its special nature, and indigenous clansmen shouldn’t be deprived of their rightful and traditional claim to their land; and second, developing Long Valley would be a lot simpler than carrying out urban renewal programs and reclamations!
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 31
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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