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Ching Dynasty New Territories and outlying islands Land Tenure, before 1898

1898 Jan 01

New Territories and outlying islands Land Tenure, before 1898

With a view to increase land tax revenue for British Empire, then Colony Secretary  for Hong Kong in 1900, Stewart Lockhart, with the assistance of Mr. Messer and Mr. Tsoi, prepared a Memorandum of Chinese  Land Tenure of Ching Dynasty for submission to then Governor, Henry Blake.

In brief details, ” Chinese land title will not be passed to female, only through the male line. Title deeds are often in perpetuity or for 1,000 years. Many deeds were registered in Ka Tsing years of Ming dynasty (A.D. 1519-1626) and recognised by Ching Dynasty.

Ching government stipulated all farm lands must be registered with authority or risk the chance of repossession for resale once discovered by government. In reality, many farm lands were registered in a much smaller than their actual size.

Land with fertile soil and near water supply to yield 2 crops of rice annually is considered 1st class farm land. Farm land on slope and relatively far from water supply, yielding 1 crop of rice per year, is considered 2nd class. Land on hilly area far from water supply is considered 3rd class.  Fish pond is top class land, whereas building land and others are lowest class of land.

Red deeds means title deeds with Official Stamps in red from Ching government and registered with authority. White deeds are title deeds in private agreement not registered with Ching Government. Government will only recognize and collect Crown Rent on Red deeds.

Landlords has Ti Kwat (地骨), the right to receive rent, tenant has Ti Pi (地皮), the right to cultivate, this double ownerships has caused many dispute.

Small village where farm land is located usually has security problem making villagers looking up to big clans for protection. They also pay land tax through these big clans, who most often have members as officials in the government. But then these big clans did not usually registered farm lands with authority.

Villagers did not  claim these farm lands as their own, in fear that Ching government would repossess these land as a result of non payment for land tax. They would then lose the farm land and livelihood.”

Henry Arthur Blake , 1898-1903

Henry Arthur Blake

Governor, 1898-1903

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Last edited by Cheung Chau Magazine on 2013 Oct 21

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Land ownership chaos in New Territories, 1898

1898 Jan 01

Land ownership chaos in New Territories, 1898

After Britian took over New Territories and outlying Islands in 1898, Stewart Lockhart,  Colonial Secretary, wrote in 1900 report to government there was too much chaos in Land ownerships in New Territories.

He reported that there were cases involving ill-informed tenants wrongly refusing to pay rent to their Landlords because the lands are in New Territories, and others are to pay rents to the Government.

“Lawless characters also took forcible possession of land and tried to deceive the authority by misrepresentations. Tenants have also endeavoured to usurp the rights of landlords.”

On 20th Oct 1898 , Stewart Lockhart issued a special notice in Chinese  to emphasize all landlords and tenants ought to submit land right  information to authority.

“Ill-behaved persons will most certainly be severely punished according to law and no leniency will be shown to them.  Tremble and obey”

Hong Kong Government Colonial  Secretary , STEWART LOCKHART,香港政府輔政司,史超活·駱克

Stewart Lockhart

Colonial Secretary,1900

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Last edited by Cheung Chau Magazine on 2016 May 20

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Cheung Chau in 1898

1898 Oct 01

Cheung Chau in 1898

When Stewart Lockhart, Special Commissioner to Hong Kong , wrote a report to Colonial Office in Oct 1898 after taking over New Territories which includes outlying islands, this is how he described Cheung Chau in his report :

“The Island of Cheung Chau is a busy place, at which many of the steamers, launches, and junks plying between Hong Kong and Macao call.

There is a station of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs on the Island, as there is also on the Island of Ma Wan, commonly known as the Kap Shui Mun Station.

The deep anchorage of Cheung Chau affords good shelter, especially during easterly gale.

He also remarked the population of Cheung Chau at 5,000 in 1898, based on the estimate from the officer of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs stationed at Cheung Chau.”

But a British, L C Arlington, the expatriate employed by Ching Dynasty as Imperial Maritime Customs Officer stationed at Cheung Chau between 1894-98, recalled a different aspect of life in his book.  “The exceptionally strong smell from raw fish and shrimp paste under the sun was almost everywhere on the island. It made him very difficult to set foot on Cheung Chau again after 6 long years of service on the island.”

長洲島上海關檢查站

Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs at Cheung Chau


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Last edited by Cheung Chau Magazine on 2013 Oct 21

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Land Court , 1900

1900 Jan 01

Land Court , 1900

Since the issue of Chinese Notice in 1899 by the Governor, Henry Blake, informing all land owners in New Territories and Outlying Islands to claim land ownerships, Colonial Government received great amount of land claim disputes, amounting to 69,253 cases, as reported by Stewart Lockhart in his report to Government in 1902.

(參閱 : Ching Dynasty New Territories and outlying islands Land Tenure, before 1898)

Colonial Government enacted the No 18th Ordinance in Hong Kong, the Land Court Ordinance to establish Land Court to handle all theses claim disputes.

Mr. H E Pollock was appointed President, Mr. Gompertz was appointed member, and Mr. Kemp appointed as Registrar.

“ First sitting of  Land Court did not take place till 20th February 1901 on Ma Wan Island, then frequent intervals to Cheung Chau and Ping Chau.

Mr. Pollock and me also went to Liyumoon to sit in Chinese Temple for hearing, and Cha Kwo Lang to sit in vacant shop for hearing.”  remarked by H H J Gompertz as President of Land Court in report to Colonial Government dated 15th March 1902.

(參閱 : British Colonial Government Policy on land administration in New Territories, 1899)

In 1905, Land Court member J R Wood submitted his report to Colonial Government and listed out the chief problems for settlement :

“Many large tracts of land are now claimed by persons who have never paid Crown Rent on them, who never reported their occupation, such as it was to the authorities, and whose claims have never in any way recognised by the Chinese Government.

Very many persons have been paying under the name of tax annual sums to families who professed to be giving an account of these sum to District Treasury but who as a matter of fact very often did nothing of the kind and who in many cases had no real title to more than a very small fraction of the territory over which they collected this rent. “

J R Wood went on to comment “ The claims to large tracts have for the most part on investigation proved untenable, while the Tax-collecting families or Taxlords, as we have called them., have , where they can show documents in support of  their income of any part of  it, been provided for in ways appropriate to each case on recommendations of the Court.”

汪太爺

Wong Wai Tsak Tong Clan’s book land title record

布政司

Wong Wai Tsak Tong clan’s book land title record

高太爺

Wong Wai Tsak Tong clan’s book land title record

Wong Wai Tsak Tong Clan's Book

Wong Wai Tsak Tong Clan’s Book

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Last edited by Cheung Chau Magazine on 2013 Oct 21

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Land Survey in New Territories, 1900

1900 Jan 01

Land Survey in New Territories, 1900

Stewart Lockhart, mentioned in his report on New Territories dated 8th Oct 1898, that there was urgent need to survey all land in New Territories. It was approved by the Governor.

Mr. Tate and Mr. Newland were put in charge of a team of surveyors and survey collies hired from India, along  together with local collies.

In his 1900 January report, Mr. P Tate mentioned land surveying is experiencing no problem in New Territories, mainly as a result of employment of  local collies.

But Stewart Lockhart, emphasised in his 1900 report to Governor that it has lot to do with issue of Government Notice in Chinese.

“In fact land surveying also made land owners more positive in registering land titles with Colonial Government in view of the determination shown by the authority in land administration in New Territories.”  Stewart Lockhart.

H K MAP IN 1898

Hong Kong Map in 1898

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Last edited by Cheung Chau Magazine on 2013 Oct 21

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