Taoist NGO fears museum plan is doomed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 October, 2008, 12:00am

Heritage board questions project

A Taoist group that has proposed turning a historic building on Ma Wan Island into a museum is dismayed at the possibility it may be withdrawn from the government's heritage revitalisation scheme.

The Yuen Yuen Elderly Centre believes its plan for the Fong Yuen Study Hall is feasible, and does not want to see its efforts wasted.

Its fears were raised after the chairman of the scheme's advisory committee, Bernard Chan, said the study hall would be 'challenging' to revitalise because of its poor accessibility and small size.

He did not rule out the possibility that the committee would pull it out of the scheme.

The plan by the group - part of the Yuen Yuen Institute, a Taoist NGO - was the only one of eight proposals to be shortlisted, which meant it had a good chance of being successful.

The centre has proposed turning the ungraded study hall in Tin Liu Tsuen into a museum showcasing artefacts of the old fishing village on Ma Wan, located between Lantau and Tsing Yi.

The museum would run eco-tours, putting visitors on boat trips to see the fish rafts. At night, the museum would become a centre offering courses on Chinese culture - such as painting and calligraphy - for local residents.

'The study hall was once a traditional Chinese school. We suggested returning it to its original use,' said Calvin Yip Wai-lam, who is in charge of the centre.

He said he believed Ma Wan's population of 10,163, including the Park Island residential development, would be a large enough source of nighttime users.

He said that the 140 square metre floor area was too small for such purposes, so the front yard would also be used.

The hall is one of the seven government-owned historic buildings designated for the Development Bureau's revitalisation scheme, which invites NGOs to participate.

The school, blending Chinese and European architectural characteristics, was built by villagers for their children between 1920 and 1930.

The government has suggested uses for the building that include a small library, study room and community building.

Mr Yip said his group would be disappointed if the building was withdrawn from the scheme.

'We've put in a lot of effort and resources on the application, approaching professionals to prepare the drawings and design. If the conditions do not qualify, the government shouldn't have included it in the first place.'

He said that the present transport network, with ferries and rural buses linking Hong Kong Island and the New Territories, would be insufficient to attract visitors, and the museum would depend on the full opening of Ma Wan Park and its road-improvement works to bring people in.

He estimated that the museum would attract 10 per cent of the visitors to the theme park.

Developer Sun Hung Kai Properties has been building the theme park on the island. Some facilities, such as a nature garden, have already been opened.

Ma Wan Fisheries Rights Association vice-chairman Chan Sung-ip said eco-tourism would serve a good educational purpose.

'People can come fishing, or simply take a look at how we work.'

The area had about 80 fishermen, he said, but he had yet to invite them to take part.