• Wed
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 9:14am

Winds of change threaten Sai Ying Pun's existence

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2007, 12:00am

Western District, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, has a distinctly local character.

But it is not just old buildings that are facing challenges from the extension of the MTR West Island line. The district's traditional culture and heritage also find themselves under threat.

Sai Ying Pun is renowned for its trading market with a wealth of stalls and shops selling dried seafood, medicine and salted fish, together with many workshops processing these as well as shark's fins.

Roger Ho Yao-sheng, cultural heritage conservation activist and author, is concerned that the extension of the MTR line will spell the end for the area's special character.

'Sai Ying Pun is the only area in Hong Kong that has its own distinct odour. You can smell the scent of salted fish in the street,' he said.

Mr Ho says it will be more difficult for the industries that have traditionally flourished to survive once the district is transformed by the new railway.

'These industries are usually practised by the older generation,' Mr Ho said. 'After they retire, the younger generation will probably not be willing to take over the business. They would rather sell their shops which will be transformed into chain stores.'

Since the West Island line project was approved last month, property prices in the area have surged.

Mr Ho hopes the government and property developers will preserve the local character of the district when carrying out regeneration projects and do not create another 'show flat' such as the Woo Cheong pawn shop premises on Johnston Road in Wan Chai without retaining any of its original uses.

The pre-war Chinese-style building in Wan Chai has undergone a massive renovation and will be home to a slew of dining venues.

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