Protection of the Harbour Ordinance

The Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, Cap. 531 (Chinese: 保護海港條例) is an ordinance in Hong Kong Law that aims to limit land reclamation in the surviving waters of Victoria Harbour.

Protection of the Harbour Ordinance
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Legislative Council of Hong Kong
An Ordinance to protect and preserve the harbour by establishing a presumption against reclamation in the harbour.
CitationCap. 531
Enacted byLegislative Council of Hong Kong
Date commenced30 June 1997
Legislative history
Bill published on22 November 1996
Introduced byHon Christine Loh Kung-wai
First reading4 December 1996
Second reading27 June 1997
Third reading27 June 1997
Status: Current legislation



In section 3, the ordinance states that:

  • "The harbour is to be protected and preserved as a special public asset and a natural heritage of the Hong Kong people and, for that purpose, there shall be a presumption against reclamation in the harbour."
  • "All public officers and public bodies shall have regard to the principle stated in subsection (1) for guidance in the exercise of any powers vested in them." [2]


The ordinance was proposed by the Society for Protection of the Harbour in 1996 and presented to the Legislative Council by Christine Loh. The bill was passed on 27 June 1997 and applied to the area of the harbour around Central, Hong Kong. On 3 November 1999 the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands moved for an amendment to the ordinance, which extended it to the entire area of Victoria Harbour as defined by Schedule 3 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap. 1).[3]

Reclamation controversy and judicial reviewEdit

The Government proposed the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project in the 1980s, long before the inception of the ordinance. When the ordinance was passed, the first phases for Central and Wan Chai were already near completion. The ordinance does not affect those projects, however, since Section 4 permits grandfathering of projects authorized prior to the ordinances commencement. [4] However, when the Government later planned to start the remaining phases of the reclamation, conservationists saw the ordinance as a means to stop the projects.

The Society for Protection of the Harbour applied for a stay of order and judicial review on September 25, 2003, prohibiting the government from continuing the third phase of the Central reclamation project.

The SPH requested judicial reviews on 27 February 2003 and 25 September 2003, respectively. On 6 October 2003, the High Court rejected the Society's bid to provisionally halt work. Thus, the Government proceeded with its work to fill 230,000 square metres (2,500,000 sq ft) of the harbour.

On 1 September 2004, the Court of Final Appeal rejected the Town Planning Board's proposal on the draft Wan Chai North Outline Zoning Plan (OZP); further, the Wan Chai Development Phase 2 had to be reviewed.[5][6]

The three testsEdit

On 8 July 2003, Madam Justice Chu of the High Court laid down three tests for the presumptions outlined in Section 3.1 of the ordinance, which were:

  • Compelling, overriding and present need
  • No viable alternative
  • Minimum impairment

The tests are carried out on a per-case basis, on the project-in-question's purpose and extent. Thus, the Government and those concerned often cite the three tests to justify (or deny) reclamation projects that are being planned.[3][7]


  1. ^ "Enactment History of Cap. 531 Protection of the Harbour Ordinance". Cap. 531 Protection of the Harbour Ordinance. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Cap. 531 PROTECTION OF THE HARBOUR ORDINANCE ─ Section 3 Presumption against reclamation in the harbour".
  3. ^ a b "Protection of the Harbour Ordinance and the Court of Final Appeal Judgment". Harbour-front Enhancement Committee.
  4. ^ "Cap. 531 PROTECTION OF THE HARBOUR ORDINANCE ─ Section 4 Transitional".
  5. ^ Chronology of Events Relating to Central Reclamation Phase III ("CRIII") Archived 2005-04-22 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Teddy Ng, Bid to halt harbour work Archived 2011-05-22 at the Wayback Machine, The Standard, September 26, 2003
  7. ^ "海濱長廊擬中環直達北角". Ming Pao. 21 February 2008.