Citizens should not worry that their land leases will expire after 2047, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po has said in a post on his official blog.
Chan said he was trying to dispel misunderstandings that were brought to the fore during the Legislative Council elections, when some candidates campaigned on land lease extensions after 2047.
2047 is the year in which China’s promise to allow Hong Kong to maintain its way of life under the One Country, Two Systems principle expires.
‘No major shift’ in policy
Chan wrote that he hoped residents will not “scare themselves” by blindly believing that the SAR government will fundamentally change its policies, urging property owners not to sell their property under an erroneous belief that they will automatically lose their ownership after 2047. There will be no major shift in land lease policy and the government will consider extensions on a case-by-case basis according to current laws, according to Chan.
One of the major misunderstandings is the assumption that the SAR government will have no power to handle land lease problems after 2047, Chan wrote.
The misunderstanding arises from a misreading of the Sino-British joint declaration, Chan said. Article 123 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, states: “where leases of land without a right of renewal expire after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, they shall be dealt with in accordance with laws and policies formulated by the Region on its own.”
Chan also referred to a policy announcement made by the government on July 15, 1997, which stated that non-renewable leases may be extended for 50 years without paying an additional premium when they expire. However, they are subject to an annual rent from the date of extension at 3 per cent of the building’s value, and the extension of such leases are at the discretion of the SAR government.
Land that was publicly sold after the establishment of the SAR government is subject to a 50-year lease from the time of the lease, which means they will expire after 2047, except for short-term leases or leases for special purposes, wrote Chan. The government will consider many factors when considering extensions, such as whether the land needs to be used publicly after the lease expires or whether the contract had violated the lease.
He said that calls for the government to start the process of extending all leases expiring in 2047 are unrealistic. “Based on current policy and the precedents, the SAR government definitely has the experience, and the ability to handle related extension work at the appropriate time – citizens have no need to worry about the uncertainties involved.”