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Heung Yee Kuk

Heung Yee Kuk
鄉議局
Emblem of the Heung Yee Kuk

Heung Yee Kuk Building in Shek Mun.
Agency overview
Formed1926; 98 years ago (1926)
Headquarters30 On Muk Street, Shek Mun, Sha Tin, NT
Agency executives
Websitehyknt.org
Heung Yee Kuk
Traditional Chinese鄉議局
Simplified Chinese乡议局
Literal meaningRural Council
Heung Yee Kuk N.T.
Traditional Chinese新界鄉議局
Simplified Chinese新界乡议局
Literal meaningRural Council of the New Territories

The Heung Yee Kuk, officially the Heung Yee Kuk N.T., is a statutory advisory body representing establishment interests in the New Territories, Hong Kong. The council is a powerful organisation comprising heads of rural committees which represent villages and market towns.

From 1980 to 2015, it was chaired by Lau Wong-fat, a billionaire landowner and heavyweight political figure in the pro-Beijing camp,[1] until he stepped down and was succeeded by his son Kenneth Lau.[2]

The organisation has its own functional constituency seat in the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Despite having less than 150 registered voters,[3] it also controls 26 seats on the 1200-member committee which selects the chief executive of Hong Kong.[4]

Background

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In 1906, eight years after the lease of the New Territories from the Qing China began, the British colonial government of Hong Kong interceded in the land rights of indigenous male villagers by converting those rights to block crown leases (on which crown rent was payable) over village land, creating significant discontent among villagers. The growing antagonism between villagers and the administration was exacerbated when, in 1923, the government imposed restraints on building of village houses on land held by villagers under the leases, including imposing a tax (known as a premium) on permission to build if granted.[5]: 378 

Tensions, whipped up by the newly formed Communist Party of China, boiled over in 1925 and the major upheavals of the Canton-Hong Kong strike crippled Hong Kong.[6]

History

It was in these circumstances that the Heung Yee Kuk was formed the next year from the New Territories Association of Agricultural, Industrial and Commercial Research,[7] to "work and negotiate with the government to promote the welfare of the people of the New Territories".[8] It was given formal status by the Heung Yee Kuk Ordinance (Chapter 1097), first enacted 11 December 1959 (originally as no. 45 of 1959) amid the construction of the first New Towns in the New Territories. The Kuk then consisted of 27 Rural Committees representing, in turn, 651 villages. All village representatives on the Rural Committees, generally appointed by village consensus but sometimes by election, had to be male heads of households.[7][9]: 95  After just one such election was found to have been rigged in 1957, the government withdrew recognition of the Kuk entirely.[9]: 98  The committees were, in any event, only representative of indigenous villagers, excluding large swathes of the New Territories population right from the Kuk's earliest days.[9]: 97 

After becoming a statutory advisory body, the Kuk met regularly with the New Territories Administration to discuss local issues and influence government policies. Tension came to a head in 1971 when a gathering of a thousand villagers in protest at government Small House Policy was described by the New Territories Commissioner Denis Bray as a "village uprising".[5]: 380 

As part of administrative reforms proposed by McKinsey in 1974, the colonial government established the position of Secretary for the New Territories to communicate with the Kuk and prepare for development of the area.[10]

Over the years the organisation has dabbled in charity work. For example, in 1966 it donated HK$660,000 to found the Heung Yee Kuk Yuen Long District Secondary School, in Yuen Long.[citation needed]

The Kuk is almost exclusively operated by men.[3] In 1994, legislator Christine Loh attempted to allow female villagers the same land-inheritance rights as men, but the Kuk protested, claiming that granting females equal inheritance rights would interfere with rural issues.[3] The Kuk sent 25 members to London to protest against the bill, which eventually passed despite their protests.[3]

The Kuk was also involved with the Wang Chau housing controversy, where a planned development was downsized in the interests of the Kuk.[11]

In October 2023, local news reported that the Kuk did not support building public housing on parts of the Hong Kong Golf Club.[12]

Small House Policy

The Kuk advocates for the Small House Policy, a male-only policy which discriminates against female villagers.[3] According to Apple Daily, males are entitled to build a house, worth approximately US$2,600,000 at around a cost of about US$700,000.[3] Some villagers own the land for five years, and then illegally sell it to developers in a process called "flipping."[3]

In April 2019, the High Court ruled that two out of three methods for obtaining a small house grant (private treaty grants and exchanges) would become banned.[13] The Kuk threatened to ask Beijing for help if an appeal to the April 2019 ruling was not granted, in addition to spending HKD $30M on the first round of judicial review.[14] Despite the Small House Policy being a generous government policy that helps male villagers obtain housing, Kingsley Sit Ho-yin, director of the Kuk's think tank, the Heung Yee Kuk Research Centre, said "Rural villagers have no responsibility to help the government solve the housing shortage. Villagers also face a land shortage. Why does the government not take back more land for us to build small houses?"[15]

See also

References

  1. ^ Bridge Builder Archived 28 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Christine Loh, Civic Exchange
  2. ^ Ng, Kang-chung (1 June 2015). "Heung Yee Kuk chairman steps into father's shoes saying he'll seek his advice". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 2 October 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Now is the best chance to reform the Heung Yee Kuk|Alex Price". Apple Daily 蘋果日報 (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). Archived from the original on 31 March 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  4. ^ "The Heung Yee Kuk: how a village governing body became an empire of rural leaders". South China Morning Post. 13 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b Goo, Say H (3 July 2014). Hualing Fu, John Gillespie (ed.). Resolving Land Disputes in East Asia: Exploring the Limits of Law. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107066823.
  6. ^ Horrocks, Robert James. The Guangzhou-Hong Kong Strike 1925–26. University of Leeds.
  7. ^ a b Lee, J; Nedilsky, L; Cheung, S (22 June 2009). Marginalization in China: Recasting Minority Politics. Springer. p. 169. ISBN 9780230622418.
  8. ^ HKBU receives HK$1 million to publish history of Heung Yee Kuk N.T., HKBU Communications Office, 28 April 2011
  9. ^ a b c Bray, Denis (2001). Hong Kong: Metamorphosis. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962209550X.
  10. ^ Scott, Ian (1982). "Administering the New Towns of Hong Kong". Asian Survey. 22 (7): 665. doi:10.2307/2643702. JSTOR 2643702.
  11. ^ "Hong Kong rural leader says opponents exploited 'public misunderstanding' in housing development controversy". South China Morning Post. 23 September 2016. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  12. ^ Lee, James (3 October 2023). "Hong Kong gov't board sees 98% of public submissions opposed to Fanling golf course housing project, as golf club cites Asian Games wins". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 4 October 2023.
  13. ^ "Small-house policy: why not all Hongkongers are born equal". South China Morning Post. 1 May 2019. Archived from the original on 28 June 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  14. ^ "Small-house policy: why not all Hongkongers are born equal". South China Morning Post. 1 May 2019. Archived from the original on 28 June 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Rural body slams party over proposal to take back land for homes". South China Morning Post. 18 September 2019. Archived from the original on 29 June 2020. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
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Heung Yee Kuk
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