Informal Land Registration Under Unclear Property Rights: Witnessing Contracts, Redevelopment, and Conferring Property Rights

Land Use Policy, Forthcoming

27 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2015 Last revised: 27 Oct 2015

See all articles by Lawrence Wai-Chung Lai

Lawrence Wai-Chung Lai

The University of Hong Kong - Department of Real Estate and Construction

Frank T. Lorne

Universitas 21 Global - Economics; University of Hong Kong

K.W. Chau

The University of Hong Kong - Ronald Coase Centre for Property Rights Research - Economics

K. S. T. Ching

The University of Hong Kong

Date Written: September 8, 2015

Abstract

The significance of informal land registration in property transactions and development has been discussed at length, but there are few examples of in-depth case studies of how this information accessing and collection institution relates to them and how it may create property rights. This paper examines the nature and operation of non-governmental and voluntary land transaction registration practices in Kowloon Walled City, an ideal example of a privately-planned and developed habitat under unclear property rights due to jurisdictional disputes between China and Britain and no state protection of property rights or intervention in building control existed. Based on documentary evidence interpreted from a Coasian and Hayekian stance, it advances the proposition that the contracts the Kowloon Walled City Kaifong Welfare Promotion Association (hereafter the Kaifong Association) sought to represent as a witness built up its political credibility as a representative body. Such a role not only reduced transaction costs of contract enforcement and, hence, facilitated redevelopment, but also became that of a quasi-government land registrar due to the popularity of its witnessing service, which, under specific circumstances, served as the basis for the assignment of de jure private property rights by the state.

Suggested Citation

Lai, Lawrence W. C. and Lorne, Frank T. and Chau, Kwong Wing and Ching, Ken S T, Informal Land Registration Under Unclear Property Rights: Witnessing Contracts, Redevelopment, and Conferring Property Rights (September 8, 2015). Land Use Policy, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2665308

Lawrence W. C. Lai (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Department of Real Estate and Construction ( email )

Hong Kong
China
(852) 259 7988 (Phone)
(852) 2559 9457 (Fax)

Frank T. Lorne

Universitas 21 Global - Economics ( email )

5 Shenton Way
#01-01 UIC Building, 068808
Singapore

University of Hong Kong

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, HK
China

Kwong Wing Chau

The University of Hong Kong - Ronald Coase Centre for Property Rights Research - Economics ( email )

Ronald Coase Centre for Property Rights Research
Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
(852)28592128 (Phone)
(852)25599457 (Fax)

Ken S T Ching

The University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Pokfulam HK
China

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