News & Events

Small House Policy: Isabel Tam delivers cross-disciplinary webinar to Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors on the implications of CFA’s judgment

Isabel Tam acted as junior counsel for the Applicant in Kwok Cheuk Kin v Director of Lands and Others v Heung Yee Kuk (Interested Party) at the Court of Final Appeal (FACV 2/2021; (2021) 24 HKCFAR 329), Court of Appeal and Court of First Instance.

At the invitation of the General Practice Division of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (“HKIS”), Isabel gave a talk on 17 March 2022 on the implications of the CFA’s decision, focusing on the follow-on effects for small house transactions, land supply, and other rights associated with indigenous villagers.

Kicking off the webinar, Isabel provided a survey of the background and historical developments which culminated in the judicial review of the Small House Policy (“the Policy”). Under the Policy, male indigenous villagers of the New Territories may be granted a small house grant allowing them to build – for once in their lifetime – a small house within his own village without paying a land premium.

She went on to explain the key findings of the Court of Final Appeal (“CFA”), addressing the basis on which the CFA considered the privileges granted by the Small House Policy to be traditional and lawful rights of indigenous inhabitants under Basic Law Article 40 (“BL40”). Part of the discussion centered around the concept of determining whether a right was “traditional” under BL40 by reference to the state of affairs in April 1990 when the Basic Law was adopted. The impact of the case on other policies and ordinances relating to land in the New Territories was also explored.

The event rounded off with a lively Q&A session, during which Isabel answered questions on issues surrounding possible changes to “ding rights”, the impact of the principle of equality in the case, and the future of the Policy beyond 2047.  

Many thanks to the HKIS and Mr. Paul Man Hong Li for organising the webinar and inviting our Member Isabel Tam to speak. We look forward to sharing our barristers’ legal insights with HKIS Members again in future seminars.

See also: 

• Summary of the seminar in the March 2022 edition of Surveyors Times at p. 26


Isabel Tam

Isabel Tam graduated with a first class LLB and with distinction in her LLM. She was awarded the Bar Scholarship in 2012. Her practice has an emphasis on public law, family law, and regulatory matters. She also has an MA in competition law with distinction in the examination component, and was seconded to the Competition Commission.

Isabel acted as junior counsel for the first and second Applicants in Kwok Cheuk Kin v Director of Lands and Others v Heung Yee Kuk (Interested Party) [2021] HKCFA 38 at the Court of First Instance, Court of Appeal, and Court of Final Appeal. This landmark decision has broad implications for land transactions involving small houses, land supply, the scope of rights for indigenous villagers in the New Territories. 

In the sphere of land law, Isabel has represented Incorporated Owners at trials and hearings in the Lands Tribunal, District Court and the High Court. She is also experienced in conducted trials and applications on trust, adverse possession, building management fees, disputes as to common parts, meeting procedures, contentious charging orders, harassment remedies, unauthorized building works, and more. 

This article was first published on 1 April 2022. 

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice and seeks to set out the general principles of the law. Detailed advice should therefore be sought from a legal professional relating to the individual merits and facts of a particular case. The photograph which appears in this article is included for decorative purposes only and should not be taken as a depiction of any matter to which the case is related.