Adverse possession – period of adverse possession accumulated against Colonial Hong Kong Government as lessee ended on 30 July 1997
P claimed that it and its predecessors-in-title of two lots of land (the “Lots”) had been in adverse possession of a piece of Government land in the New Territories which adjoined the Lots since not later than 1937. The Director of Lands (the “Director”), acting for and on behalf of the Hong Kong Government, pleaded in its Amended Defence that the title of the Colonial Hong Kong Government over the land in the New Territories was a leasehold title of a 99-year term which expired on 30 June 1997, that whatever period of adverse possession P’s predecessors-in-title managed to accumulate against the Colonial Hong Kong Government came to an end on 30 June 1997 and any period of adverse possession that P’s predecessors-in-title and P had accumulated since 1 July 1997 was less than the required 60 years. P applied to strike out the aforesaid part of the Amended Defence as disclosing no reasonable defence, and alternatively sought a determination of the defence as preliminary questions of law under O.14A of the Rules of the High Court (Cap. 4A, Sub. Leg.) (the “RHC”).
Held, dismissing P’s applications, that:
- The Director’s defence must be accepted as valid for present purposes and P’s application for striking-out failed. As a matter of Hong Kong law, all land in the New Territories was vested in the British Crown by statute under s. 15 of Ordinance No. 8 of 1900, which was re-enacted by s. 15 of Ordinance No. 18 of 1900. The interest of the British Crown or the British Crown in right of the Colonial Hong Kong Government in New Territories land was a leasehold interest for a term of 99 years. Further, when the lease expired, the reversionary interest of the Chinese Government fell into possession on 1 July 1997. Whatever period of adverse possession P’s predecessors-in-title had managed to accumulate against the Colonial Hong Kong Government or the British Crown as lessee of the Land came to an end on 30 July 1997.