A housing estate badly hit by Sars in 2003 received a pleasant surprise from Beijing yesterday - a hand-written letter signed by Premier Wen Jiabao. Residents at Amoy Gardens in Kwun Tong - which hosted the premier in June 2003 soon after the severe acute respiratory syndrome broke out in the city - said last month that they would be happy to receive him again. Wen responded by sending a letter written in traditional Chinese characters - a form commonly used in Hong Kong but not on the mainland. He wrote of the deep impressions that the city had left on him: 'Hongkongers have shown a spirit of unity and [readiness to] help one another in difficult times, while professionals displayed a spirit of selfless sacrifice.' Wen was referring to his only visit to Hong Kong as premier, in 2003, when Sars killed 299 people in the city. The health scare emptied hotels and shops, saw millions don surgical masks and caused the quarantine of residents in an entire block at Amoy Gardens as 329 residents were infected and 42 died. On the sidelines of the National People's Congress last month, Wen expressed his wish to revisit the city: '[I want] to see residents of Amoy Gardens and interact with students of the University of Hong Kong.' Wilson Yip Hing-kwok, chairman of the Amoy Gardens owner committee, then wrote a letter to Wen on April 8, and Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying passed it to Wen in Beijing. Yip received the reply yesterday from a senior official of the central government's liaison office. In the letter, dated April 15 - only days after he met Leung - Wen said he was very happy to receive Yip's message. 'As I read the letter, I thought of Hongkongers, and the memories of my Amoy Gardens visit nine years ago are still vivid,' Wen said. He also wished the residents well and prosperity for Hong Kong. 'It was a huge encouragement to the residents and to Hongkongers to receive a handwritten letter from a busy man like the premier,' Yip said. In his letter to Wen, he wrote of how much the residents would like the premier to visit again. 'Amoy Gardens was like a ghost town. Not only strangers, but even taxi drivers refused to take passengers here,' Yip recalled. But Wen did not wear a mask during his visit. 'Although it lasted for only 20 minutes, it was the turning point for the residents and others to rebuild confidence in Amoy Gardens.' Yip said he had displayed copies of the letter on notice boards on all 19 blocks in the estate.