Urban renewal chief chased by 'Wedding Card Street' protesters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 December, 2007, 12:00am

A meeting between the Urban Renewal Authority chairman and hunger strikers in Wan Chai's 'Wedding Card Street' ended in chaos yesterday as demonstrators chased him and blocked his departure.

The meeting was arranged after a dozen protesters opposing plans to redevelop the area presented a petition to the authority's headquarters.

After exchanging views with a hunger striker, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen was surrounded by yelling protesters and had to be escorted to his car by police.

Some protesters climbed onto his car and others stood in front of it. He was able to leave only after police ordered the protesters to calm down and issued a verbal warning.

Mr Cheung remained adamant the development of the Lee Tung Street area - known as Wedding Card Street because of the shops it once housed - had to proceed.

H15 Concern Group, which launched a protest on Sunday, said Mr Cheung would pay a high price and hinted at a judicial review.

The action began after group member May Yip Mee-yung found that demolition of tenement buildings had begun last week, three weeks before a meeting of the Town Planning Board was due to consider a proposal from the group.

The proposal calls for retention of 30 tenement buildings, reducing the height of four proposed high-rises by five storeys and scrapping an underground car park.

Citing the high restoration cost, the authority decided to demolish most of the buildings and build new ones. It also promised an area for a social enterprise with the theme 'Wedding City'. Responding to shop owners' worries that rents in Wedding City would be too high, an authority spokesman said it was considering a short rent-exemption period if they moved back.

Wan Chai District Council chairwoman Ada Wong Ying-kay said it would be regrettable if the street was not saved, as the Blue House and Wan Chai Market were to be.