Blue House families in final fight to stay

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 December, 2006, 12:00am

Residents of the historic Blue House in Wan Chai are fighting a last-ditch battle for the right to stay in their homes.

Together with social workers, they mounted a protest yesterday in front of the building on Stone Nullah Lane against the government's redevelopment plan for the area, proposed earlier this year.

'People are the real spirit of this old area,' said Laurence Lam Kwok-wai, a senior officer of social welfare group St James' Settlement. 'The district will be turned into a soulless place if the government denies their right to stay.'

About 30 families live in the Blue House. The government has offered to relocate them to public estates.

'As far as we know, at least one third of the families don't want to move out,' Mr Lam said.

The 80-year-old Blue House is one of the last surviving balconied tenements and is listed as a grade-one historical building by the Antiquities Advisory Board.

The government is proposing that the four-storey structure, and the adjacent Yellow House, be refurbished and the nearby Orange House demolished. The Blue House would house a museum of tea and Chinese medicine.

The proposal by the Urban Renewal Authority and the Housing Society will be discussed today by the Town Planning Board.

So Leung, 77, has lived with his wife in the Blue House for three years to be close to his daughter.

'We are too old to be able to adapt to a new place,' he said. 'The reason that I moved into this flat is because it is near my daughter's home. What will I do if they arrange to have me live in a public house far away?'

A hospital - the first in Wan Chai to provide Chinese medicine to residents - occupied the site of the Blue House in the 19th century. The neighbourhood has a history of involvement in the tea trade.