Important terms and acronyms related to The New Territories (NT) villages:
country park – in Hong Kong a large part of the territory’s countryside is officially designated as country parks. These are designated areas where people visit and enjoy recreation in a countryside environment that has a natural, rural atmosphere for visitors who do not necessarily want to visit the wider countryside. Country parks provide easy access to the countryside for those living in the towns and suburbs. They do not necessarily have nature conservation interests, although often this is the case. Most of these are reservoir watersheds, serving the dual purpose of providing recreational facilities and contributing to Hong Kong’s water supply. There are 24 country parks in Hong Kong and within a few of them are 52 old indigenous villages.
ding right – literally, “male” right; refers to the right of an indigenous villager to build a small house within his own village. Female indigenous villagers are not entitled to ding rights (except in certain cases, such as when the husband is certified to be “insane”), neither are non-indigenous Hong Kong people who do not have the same privileges extended to them as indigenous villagers.
enclaves – country park enclaves come from a policy the colonial government used to set up country parks. The government zoned areas inhabited by indigenous villagers as ‘enclaves’ in 1991 so that the establishment of country parks would go smoothly. Enclaves are not required to follow the stringent conservation policy that country parks are subject to; as a result, construction is often insensitive to the site’s ecological and biological properties.
Heung Yee Kuk (HYK) – the Heung Yee Kuk is a body of elected representatives for the NT. It serves to promote cooperation among people of the NT, and between the government and the residents of the NT. They also advise the government on social and economic developments, the welfare and prosperity, and the customs and traditions of people in the NT. To read the full ordinance that established the Heung Yee Kuk, click here.
indigenous villager (IV) – an indigenous villager is a male who is over 18 years old and is descended through the male line from a resident in 1898 of a recognised village. A village representative must certify that a male villager is indigenous in order to be eligible for a small house grant. Many indigenous villagers migrate overseas, yet some of the males still benefit from the ding rights and Small House Policy.
New Territories (NT) – the New Territories is one of the three main areas of Hong Kong, north of Kowloon Peninsula and south of the border between Hong Kong and China. It comprises 86.2% of the land area of Hong Kong and had a population of 3,691,093 in 2011.
recognised village – one of the 636 villages that existed in 1898 and recognised by the colonial government.
Small House Policy (SHP) – introduced in 1972, SHP was formulated to “allow an indigenous villager to apply for permission to erect for himself during his lifetime a small house on a suitable site within his own village”. Under this policy, an indigenous male villager who is over 18 years and is descended through the male line from a resident in 1898 of a recognised village is entitled to apply for one concessionary grant during his lifetime to build one small house, the so-called ‘ding’ (literally, male) right. Under this administrative land policy a small house can be applied for on any private land, or, in case the applicant has no land, on government land at a concessionary premium, provided that the site is within the so-called village environs of a recognised village. The rights of indigenous villagers are further enshrined in Article 40 of the Basic Law.
Village Environs (VE) – the village area within 300 ft of the edge of the last house built before December 1972.
Village Expansion Area (VEA) – as the demand for village housing grew a VEA scheme was introduced in 1981 to resume private land outside the village environs.
Village Representative – the traditional system of village representation that gives indigenous villagers the exclusive right to stand, vote and be elected.
V zone – Village Development Area zone under an Outline Zoning Plan, a statutory town plan prepared by the Town Planning Board.
Hopkinson and Man-Lei, “Rethinking the Small House Policy.” September 2003.
Chan, “The Real Threat to Hong Kong’s Country Parks.” November 2013.