Windows ripped out of Hong Kong’s historic Red House despite ongoing preservation talks

Lawmaker calls it a ‘slap in the face’ of development officials and heritage advisers who have been monitoring the building

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 8:22am

Any moves to demolish a historic building, believed to be linked to Dr Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of modern China, have been hit by a government order.

The Development Bureau said it would declare the grade one Red House in Tuen Mun a “proposed monument” after parts of its ­window frames were torn down on Wednesday.

According to the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, the bureau may make such a declaration if a building is under the threat of demolition or renovation works that may affect its heritage value. No work may be carried out at the premises for a year.

“The government is highly concerned about the recent works carried out in and around the Red House. With the support of the Antiquities Advisory Board, the government will gazette its decision to declare the Red House a proposed monument as soon as possible, so that it can obtain ­immediate legal protection,” a bureau spokesman said.

The declaration was unanimously supported by board members yesterday. “The actions of the owner have clearly crossed the line,” board chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo said.

The work was carried out ­despite ongoing discussions ­between the government and the representatives of the owner over preservation proposals for the two-storey structure.

“Unfortunately, what we hoped would be a level foundation for talks with the owner has been destroyed, so we had to act immediately,” Lam said.

The bureau spokesman said it would continue to discuss how to preserve the structure.

During the one-year grace ­period, authorities, experts and the public will also have a chance to say whether the building ­deserves monument status and granted permanent statutory ­protection.

Architect and board member Philip Liao Yi-kang said a long-term preservation plan was ­needed. “At this rural location, a land swap or easing of development will be at very low cost and highly achievable,” he said.

“Compensate it with nearby land or buy it outright. All of these are all viable options that should be within the cards on the heritage office’s table.”

King Yin Lei, a historic mansion on Stubbs Road, Mid-Levels was declared a “proposed monument” in 2007, and then later, a monument. But two other heritage sites, the now demolished Ho Tung Gardens villa on The Peak and Jessville mansion in Pok Fu Lam, were not upgraded after they were declared “proposed monuments”.

The Red House is believed to have served as a base for republican revolutionaries who overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911. But those claims are disputed.

It was bought for HK$5 million in ­November. Concern was raised after walls surrounding the property were torn down and water to residents facing eviction cut off. Eighteen people still live there.