Developer must not be allowed to ruin old village

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 12:00am

On January 16, the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, stated in the Chinese press that it was 'impossible' for Nga Tsin Wai village in Kowloon to be preserved.


This village, with a history spanning more than 800 years, is almost the last surviving significant remnant of pre-British Kowloon, and, as such, is a vital part of our historical and cultural heritage. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has, several times, stated that it is a high priority of his administration that our Chinese heritage be preserved. If Nga Tsin Wai cannot be saved, nothing of that heritage will remain in Kowloon. Over the last few years, a great deal of effort has gone into discussions on how to preserve the village, and on how to use it to teach future generations about the Chinese traditions in our great city. Mr Suen, however, does not seem to feel that this effort is worthwhile.


A property developer started to buy up house sites in the village 15 years ago and wants to build faceless multi-storey blocks.


It would be interesting to learn if Mr Suen's remarks were issued after discussion with the top officials from the government agencies involved in preservation of our historical heritage, that is, the Home Affairs Bureau, the Antiquities and Monuments Office, and the Antiquities Advisory Board, or whether this was just Mr Suen giving his own personal views without any consultation within government or liaison between the parties involved. Perhaps we could ask them to respond. Certainly, Wong Tai Sin District Board is completely opposed to development of the site and is in favour of preservation.


Of course, if the developer gets his way, there will be income for the government, and, if the village is preserved, the administration will incur expenses.


Is that all that lies behind this? Is it, in fact, the case that, where saving our Chinese historical heritage is concerned, it is only a priority where no cash is involved?


There can be no doubt at all that preservation of this priceless site is not 'impossible', merely expensive. If the will was there in government, then such a process would be easy.


I urge all of your readers who are interested in saving the evidence of our past to express their views on this case.


PATRICK H. HASE


Tai Po