In Hong Kong, a row over land rights reflects a bitter divide

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HONG KONG’S serried ranks of high-rises, stuffed with small flats, are the epitome of modern city living. Yet more than half of the 1,100-square-km territory is green: outside the dense urban centres lie countryside and mountainous jungle dotted with ancient villages. Many are still inhabited by the clans who founded them hundreds of years ago. Families gather in ancestral halls bearing the names of their forefathers, who are buried in traditional horseshoe-shaped graves nearby, nestled at the spots on the hillsides with the most auspicious feng shui. By dint of this historical connection, some villagers receive a valuable and controversial privilege: the right to buy land at a discount from the government and to build a house on it, of a size most Hong Kongers would envy. The system has become a topic of fierce debate in the territory—a proxy war, in effect, between pro-democracy activists and the most powerful defender of the privileges: China’s ruling Communist…Continue reading

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