Monument option could save Hong Kong’s historic Red House, development minister says

Remarks made as 300 protesters flock to Tuen Mun site said to have served as secret base for Sun Yat-sen’s plot to overthrow Qing dynasty a century ago

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 9:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 February, 2017, 3:50pm

The Tuen Mun house believed to have served as the secret base for the 1911 revolution led by Sun Yat-sen could be declared a proposed monument “when necessary” so it could be saved from the wrecking ball, development minister Eric Ma Siu-cheung said.

Ma made the remarks on Sunday as 300 people protested outside the Red House, calling on the government to immediately propose it be named a monument so the site’s new landlord cannot demolish the building as planned.

The development minister said the government was in the process of contacting the landlord to study and discuss how the site might be “kept”. He added that “immediate follow-up action” would be taken, including declaring it a proposed monument, to afford statutory protection “when necessary”.

Guards turn away government inspectors from Hong Kong’s historic Red House, as demolition worries persist

The controversy stems from a widely held belief the two-storey house served as the base for Chinese republican revolutionaries in their plot to overthrow the Qing dynasty in the 1900s.

In 2009, the Antiquities and Monuments Office classified the site a grade one historic building – the highest in the three-tier system. But the top grading does not alone confer statutory protection.

The Development Bureau can declare any grade one building a “proposed monument” if it is under threat of demolition or renovation works that can affect the heritage value of the building. If such a declaration is made, no works can be carried out on the premises for one year.

Trouble for the 18 residents at the dilapidated house began after the site was sold for just HK$5 million last November. The residents were told to vacate by Sunday, but that did not happen after the 300 protesters showed up to support them.

“This is an important building in the history of Hong Kong,” protester Elaine Li, 68, said. “Do we want a day to come when there are only high-rises here and nothing else? It was some 30 years ago when I first visited. Since then, I have brought my children. This is part of Hongkongers’ collective memory.”

Do we want a day to come when there are only high-rises here and nothing else?
Elaine Li, protester

Hong Kong and Macau Taiwanese Charity Fund chairman Tommy Chang Juo-ming said at the protest: “The house is the origin of the revolutionary movement. It cannot be torn down.”

A notice posted by the Buildings Department at the house entrance on Saturday stated the landlord had not filed applications to demolish the house and that unauthorised works were not allowed. It was issued after parts of the wall surrounding the Red House had been torn down.

A resident who asked only to be identified by her surname Chan said department officers had entered the house to inspect its structural safety but did not say what follow-up actions would be taken.

Mak Ip-sing, convenor of the concern group that organised the protest, said his members found it strange the site had been sold for just HK$5 million. He said they would consider raising funds from the public to buy back the site from the new landlord.