So-called idyllic village is an eyesore

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 12:00am

A number of correspondents have written to these columns about Nga Tsin Wai village.

It is quite obvious to me that all the talk about preservation has come from former colonial district officers and armchair critics. I lived there from 1958 to 1966 and I can tell readers that it never has been an 'idyllic village' of 'cultural significance'.

It was just a collection of stone huts of shoddy construction in an urban slum, with little difference from the Tung Tau, Sai Tau villages, or Kowloon Walled City in the same area.

Nobody shed a tear for the transformation of Tung Tau (which became a public housing estate) or Sai Tau and the Walled City (which became Kowloon City Plaza and a public park).

Even in the early 1960s not many residents were indigenous villagers. Most were just poor people who could not afford better homes. Security was poor and drug abuse was common.

Many people openly smoked opium in those days (not the clandestine taking of heroin).

Fires and epidemics were frequent, and poorly maintained stone huts often collapsed during typhoons.

It had little community spirit worth mentioning.

Tenants would not hesitate to leave if they can afford better housing, or if they became eligible for public housing, and landlords would have sold their huts to the highest bidder (but they are still talking about pre-1997 prices in 2003).

Little remained of the kind of village which your correspondents described as the connection with 'pre-British and post-colonial' eras.

Nga Tsin Wai was, and still is, a slum and an eyesore. Incompetent policies and the greed of stone hut owners has held back development of the place for half a century. It is time to put it out of its misery.