Heung Yee Kuk
The Heung Yee Kuk, officially the 'Heung Yee Kuk N.T.', is a statutory advisory body representing establishment interests in the New Territories, Hong Kong. The Kuk is a powerful organisation comprising heads of rural committees which represent villages and market towns.
Emblem of the Heung Yee Kuk
|Headquarters||30 Muk Street, Shek Mun, Shatin, NT|
|Heung Yee Kuk|
|Literal meaning||Rural Council|
From 1980 to 2015 it was chaired by Lau Wong-fat, a billionaire landowner and heavyweight political figure in the pro-Beijing camp, until he stepped down and was succeeded by his son Kenneth Lau Ip-keung.
In 1906, eight years after the lease of the New Territories from the Government of China began, the British colonial government of Hong Kong interceded in the land rights of indigenous male villages by converting those rights to block Crown leases (on which Crown rent was payable) over village land, creating significant discontent among villagers. The growing antagonism between villagers and the administration was exacerbated when, in 1923, the government imposed restraints on building of village houses on land held by villagers under the leases, including imposing a tax (known as a premium) on permission to build if granted.:378
It was in these circumstances that the Heung Yee Kuk was formed the next year from the New Territories Association of Agricultural, Industrial and Commercial Research, to "work and negotiate with the government to promote the welfare of the people of the New Territories". It was given formal status by the Heung Yee Kuk Ordinance (Chapter 1097), first enacted 11 December 1959 (originally as no. 45 of 1959) amid the construction of the first New Towns in the New Territories. The Kuk then consisted of 27 Rural Committees representing, in turn, 651 villages. All village representatives on the Rural Committees, generally appointed by village consensus but sometimes by election, had to be male heads of households.:95 After just one such election was found to have been rigged in 1957, the government withdrew recognition of the Kuk entirely.:98 The committees were, in any event, only representative of indigenous villagers, excluding large swathes of the New Territories population right from the Kuk's earliest days.:97
After becoming a statutory advisory body, the Kuk met regularly with the New Territories Administration to discuss local issues and influence government policies. Tension came to a head in 1971 when a gathering of a thousand villagers in protest at government village house policy was described by the New Territories Commissioner Denis Bray as a "village uprising".:380
As part of administrative reforms proposed by McKinsey in 1974, the colonial government established the position of Secretary for the New Territories to communicate with the Kuk and prepare for development of the area.
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