Nun in temple vigil to defy 'developers'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2012, 12:00am


A Buddhist nun resisting her eviction from a temple in Yuen Long fears that she is being intimidated into leaving by business interests who want to turn the site into a columbarium.

Defiant Sik Chi-sin is continuing to stand firm at the Kung Um Meditation Master Temple, which is about 100 years old and which she has looked after since 1998.

She said her troubles began in January, when a man she knew only by his surname of Wong came 'to talk business'.

'The man said he was backed by mainland capital and wanted to renovate the temple with a new layout for a million-dollar business,' said Sik, 56, who worked in real estate before turning to the Buddhist faith on a visit to Tibet 14 years ago.

'He didn't specify it was for [urn] niches but said the plan was to 'make spaces,'' said Sik. She said she feared her temple was being targeted by the lucrative urn business, amid a shortage of niches at public facilities.

'He also said I can continue to take care of the place and cook vegetarian meals for people.

'I suspect the man was talking about urns because otherwise, why would we need a new layout for meditation?'

The government is conducting a consultation for a licensing system for private columbariums, which ends tomorrow.

The Kung Um Meditation Master Temple was founded more than a century ago by villagers from nearby Lam Hau Tsuen and Shan Ha Tsuen to commemorate a logger found dead in their neighbourhood.

Villagers noticed that the dead man was smiling and thought he had been blessed by the gods to die a peaceful death.

The temple, on hills overlooking Yuen Long, was once a picnic spot and a centre of activities for Yuen Long locals before the 1980s, until the land was taken over by recycling yards and storage sites for scrapped cars. Villagers leased the temple to monks and nuns over the years, and Sik said her lease from the villagers was for her 'lifelong' meditation.

But a few days after Wong's visit, villagers from Lam Hau Tsuen gave her one month's notice to leave, she said. She refused to comply and last month, she says, a dozen men came and warned her to move out.

'I don't know for sure that the businessman's visit is related to my lease termination. But there have been cases of nuns and monks being chased out from temples by urn businessmen. I worry that I'll be next,' she added.

Man Lau-fong, a village representative for Lam Hau Tsuen, dismissed the fears that there were plans to build niches as 'groundless'.

'We only want to renovate the place to facilitate worshippers. We didn't' ask her anything but just to cook vegetarian meals,' Man said.

Cheung Yiu-ming, an elder from Shan Ha Tsuen, said villagers wanted to get another person to manage the temple. They claimed Sik had failed to look after souvenirs from donors properly. He also denied there were plans for an urn development.