Roger Ho Yao-sheng, an author and conservationist behind some of Hong Kong's biggest heritage-protection campaigns in recent years, has died at the age of 49. Ho, a co-founder of the Mid-Levels Concern Group, now the Central and Western Concern Group, died in Queen Mary Hospital on July 21 of stomach cancer. The group, which he launched with Katty Law Ngar-ning in 2005, staged dozens of campaigns to stop new skyscrapers being built in Central, including the campaign to save Wing Lee Street from bulldozers, and pressuring the government to stop selling the former Hollywood Road police compound for commercial development. Law said yesterday that Ho was a key driver of the heritage campaigns. The group had been lobbying the Urban Renewal Authority to spare Wing Lee Street from redevelopment for years. Their efforts gained momentum when the award-winning film Echoes of the Rainbow - which was shot in the street - made Wing Lee Street popular. The activists, called 'heritage fascists' by some of their opponents, have also campaigned for the conservation of Staunton Street, the Central Market and Government Hill, and outdoor markets on Graham Street and Peel Street. Ho joined the Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage as a project manager in 2006. The late campaigner used his connections in society and the press to promote cultural-heritage sites that were threatened. Last September, he helped a Yue Laan association promote the Hungry Ghost Festival in Central. The Urban Renewal Authority eventually agreed that the Yue Laan association could stay at its shop at 62 Staunton Street. Ho contacted media in 2006 when he learned that Hong Kong's last remaining Chinese winery would soon close due to a decline in business. The owner of the then 86-year-old Cheong Yuen Chinese Wine Merchant on Possession Street brewed rice wine at the shop. The winery is still in business. 'He loved those small shops, and he loved talking to their owners. So he knew very well how every one of them was doing and they liked him, too,' Law said. Ho's relatively short but influential career in conservation began with cancer and ended with cancer. A former marketing manager in the fashion business, he rethought his priorities after an earlier bout with cancer from which he recovered. But his devotion to protecting Central and raising public awareness of the survival of traditional businesses took root in his childhood, when his parents were street vendors on Lee Yuen Tung Street, said Christie Ho Yee-man, Ho's younger sister. 'When we are kids, we had the old HSBC headquarters, the old Hong Kong Club, the old General Post Office and the former Gloucester Tower, which is the Landmark now. Central was classy and beautiful. 'But it was also home to many small businesses. We had an entire street selling cloth, a street selling buttons and zips. The Central we grew up with is disappearing and is hostile to small business. My elder brother didn't like this. The government's proposal in 2003 to convert the Central Police Station for tourism development triggered Roger to get involved,' his sister said. Ho was the author of nine books. His funeral was to be held at Queen Mary Hospital yesterday. The Conservancy Association will hold a memorial service at the Western District Community Centre on August 9.