Government to introduce Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill 2014
The Government will introduce the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill 2014 into the Legislative Council (LegCo) on July 9 to amend the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28) to increase the penalties for offences relating to unlawful occupation of unleased Government land for the purpose of enhancing the deterrent effect against the relevant offences.
"The provisions for the relevant offences and the corresponding penalties in the Ordinance are among the essential elements in the enforcement regime for unlawful occupation of unleased land. It is of vital importance to keep the level of penalties abreast with societal development and to maintain an adequate deterrent effect against the relevant offences," a Government spokesman said.
The Lands Department (LandsD) takes land control action in respect of unleased Government land under the Ordinance. Section 6 of the Ordinance provides for the enforcement actions against unlawful occupation of unleased land. The level of penalty under section 6(4), i.e. a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for six months, has not been revised since the enactment of the Ordinance in 1972.
"The current level of fines is not commensurate with the severity of the offence and cannot achieve the necessary punitive and deterrent effects for both first-time and repeat offenders. In their reports in 2012, the Audit Commission and the Public Accounts Committee of LegCo also urged the Government to initiate legislative amendments to increase the relevant levels of penalties and consider introducing a system of daily fines to reinforce the deterrent effect. The Government thus proposes to increase the penalty levels for the relevant offences under the Ordinance and to also introduce a system of daily fines for the offence of unlawful occupation of unleased land upon conviction," the spokesman said.
Under the proposed legislative amendments, the maximum fine (under section 6(4)) for a first-time offence of unlawful occupation of unleased government land is $500,000 plus $50,000 for each day the offence continues. For a repeated offence, the proposed maximum fine is $1 million plus $100,000 for each day the offence continues. The Government also proposes to increase the level of penalty for the other two similar offences under s.6(4A) and s.7(4), i.e. unlawful erection of structures on unleased land and unlawful removal of earth, turf or stone from unleased land.
"The Government attaches great importance to effectively enforcing against unlawful occupation of government land. Apart from this proposal to increase the relevant penalties through legislative amendments to the Ordinance, LandsD is examining measures to enhance its enforcement actions with a view to stepping up prosecution and will continue its efforts in such a direction. The Government would like to appeal to members of the public not to engage in any unlawful occupation of Government land, unlawful erection of structures on unleased land, or unlawful removal of earth, turf or stone from unleased land," the spokesman added.
The Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill 2014 will be published in the Gazette on July 4 and introduced into the LegCo on July 9.
Ends/Thursday, June 26, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:26