Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Home

The government-property cartel coalition has bulldozed through an unjust piece of legislation lowering the forced sale threshold from 90 percent to 80 percent of units of an old building facing demolition and redevelopment. The law will come into effect from 1st April, 2010. (For background information, please refer to this blogpost.)

A secondary school student with an inquisitive mind asked Carrie Lam, Secretary for Development, a hard-hitting question at a radio forum: is there any guarantee that there won’t be future demands from developers to further lower the threshold to 70 percent, 60 percent, 50 percent?

For developers who can see, hear, smell, taste and feel nothing but MONEY AND PROFITS, their acquisition process in buying out units of a targeted building is going to be made easier and quicker because of the legislation. For the minority property owners who are unwilling to sell their homes and relocate from a familiar neighborhood, the law amounts to nothing less than a flagrant usurpation upon their private property right. Sentimental reasons aside, their reluctance to sell is also out of practicality: the amount of compensation offered is almost never sufficient for them to buy a same-sized flat in the same area. But of course, these are not the problems of the fat-cat bureaucrats and stuffed-to-the-gills developers.

According to a Ming Pao report, since the inception of the forced sale law in 1999, there have been a total 20 cases of forced sale by auction. In 18 cases (or 90 percent), the units concerned were bought by the applicant (developer) at the reserve price with no competition. A Ta Kung Pao news report cited a latest case of forced sale by auction in which two blocks of units at 繼園台, located at a valuable site on Braemar Hill, North Point, were sold to the New World group at a ludicrously low price HK$3,475 per square foot.

Protests and opposition are only good if they fall on sympathetic ears, which are becoming more and more of a rarity in Hong Kong. Obama’s famous term “empathy-deficit” may better describe this society than the American one. At least the Americans have Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who are decent enough to become true philanthropists and give back to society.

When property prices have breached the HK$10,000-a-square-foot mark and young people’s dream of owning a home are in danger of becoming a permanent dream, and you can still hear the developer titans say they are against reviving the Home Ownership Scheme, which the government stupidly put an end to in 2002 to prop up the property market and which might be the only way out for the home-starved low- to middle-income class, you know that the WEALTHY AND THE HAVES of this society have become stone-hearted and obdurately pitiless towards the HAVE-NOTS.

It is understandable that developers want to catch the mainland-corrupt-money train by offering sky-priced luxury flats. If those mainland princelings and venal officials and cadres are daft enough to buy the SUPER-overpriced concrete-and-glass boxes from them, it’s all very well. But why on earth do you have to be so shamelessly insistent on opposing government help for the deprived?

Perhaps it is impossible to make those who have never in their lives tasted what deprivation and poverty is like truly understand what deprivation and poverty means. But it is at least extremely bad taste for multi-billionaires to publicly show their hard-hearted selfishness and utter disconnect with the majority of people who grow up and live in the same community as they.

It is equally shameful for a senior bureaucrat to be overtly advocating what she in her conscience must know very well amounts to blatant favoritism towards the property cartel at the expense of the small citizens. She is blind not to see that the developer cartel is an insatiable glutton.