Following is a question by the Hon Chim Pui-chung and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 25):
The former Legislative Council enacted the Block Crown Lease (Cheung Chau) Ordinance in 1995 to terminate the Block Crown Lease granted to Wong Wai Tsak Tong of Cheung Chau so as to resolve the disputes between Wong Wai Tsak Tong and the sub-lessees. According to the Ordinance, Wong Wai Tsak Tong is entitled to claim compensation for the termination of the Block Crown Lease and for the deemed surrender of the land to the Government upon expiry of the sub-leases specified in section 9(2) of the Ordinance. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
(a) the Government has granted compensation to Wong Wai Tsak Tong; if it has, of the area of the land affected, the amount of compensation granted by the Government and the average amount of compensation per square metre; and
(b) the Government has instituted any legal proceedings in the process of land resumption?
The Wong Wai Tsak Tong of Cheung Chau (WWTT) was first granted land on Cheung Chau by a Block Crown Lease as early as 1905. Since then, the WWTT had been granted additional land on Cheung Chau under New Grants, as such, WWTT was, at a certain point in time, the registered owner of 90% of the private land on Cheung Chau. WWTT subleased most of its land on Cheung Chau using a simple form of sublease which is renewable every five years on the same terms until the termination of the Block Crown Lease.
Between the 1980s and the early 1990s, WWTT and the sub-lessees had disputes over the land title, the renewal of sub-leases, payment of government rent and redevelopment of land. Although legal action was taken in 1990 between some of the sub-lessees and WWTT with a settlement reached subsequently, such action did not help resolve the disputes. Afterwards, in 1994, a majority of these sub-leases were not renewed upon expiry as a result of the disputes, creating uncertainty to title. Property transactions in Cheung Chau were thus effectively frozen. Despite the Government's repeated attempts to mediate differences between the two parties in the hope that an agreement could be reached, such attempts proved to be in vain. As the above-mentioned disputes had built up to an extent that undermined the Government's proper land administration in Cheung Chau, the Government introduced the "Wong Wai Tsak Tong (Renewal and Extension of Sub-leases) Bill" in 1995, with hopes to regulate matters concerning the renewal of sub-leases, payment of government rent and redevelopment of land, and resolve the disputes. However, the bill introduced by the Government was negatived at the resumption of second reading.
In the meantime, a Private Member's Bill was introduced, which sought to terminate the Block Crown Lease granted to WWTT and to deem all sub-lessees and sub-leases under the Block Crown Lease as Crown lessees and Crown leases respectively. The Private Member's Bill was subsequently passed by the former Legislative Council in July 1995, and became the Block Crown Lease (Cheung Chau) Ordinance (Cap. 488) (the Ordinance). Commencement of the Ordinance took place in September 1995. Section 10 of the Ordinance stipulates that WWTT is entitled to claim compensation, and that WWTT shall submit a claim within 12 months from the commencement of the Ordinance to the Lands Tribunal for determination of the amount of compensation to be paid to WWTT.
Subsequent to the commencement of the Ordinance, WWTT submitted a claim to the Lands Tribunal in September 1996 in accordance with Section 10 of the Ordinance. In May 2004, subsequent to agreement on the amount of compensation between the Lands Department and WWTT, the Lands Tribunal handed down a consent judgement and determined the full and final amount of compensation. Since then, the problems concerning WWTT and the Ordinance had been settled. The disputes between WWTT and the sub-lessees no longer exist, and the Government's land administration in Cheung Chau has been carried out smoothly.
My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(a) As mentioned above, WWTT submitted a claim to the Lands Tribunal in September 1996 in accordance with Section 10 of the Ordinance. The Lands Department subsequently reached an out-of-court agreement with WWTT in May 2004, and the Lands Tribunal thus handed down a consent judgement and determined the full and final amount of compensation at $20 million. The compensation was released in June 2004. The consent judgment did not mention that the size of land was a factor considered in the determination of the compensation amount.
(b) As I have mentioned in my main reply, the Private Member's Bill sought to terminate the Block Crown Lease granted to WWTT and to deem all sub-lessees and sub-leases under the Block Crown Lease as Crown lessees and Crown leases respectively. With the passage of the Bill and the commencement of the Ordinance, the above-mentioned arrangements came into effect automatically. There was no land resumption process involved. The legal proceedings involved with the Ordinance were those for the claim for compensation, which I have mentioned in my main reply as well as part (a) of my reply. Such proceedings had been concluded in 2004.
Ends/Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:21