Historic Hong Kong Red House set to be preserved for 10 years

The owner has applied for a subsidy scheme to restore the building, widely thought to be a hideout for revolutionary Dr Sun Yat-sen

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 1:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 10:52pm

A historic building in Hong Kong believed to have been a secret base for the founding father of modern China, Dr Sun Yat-sen, could be preserved for at least 10 years, in a latest turn of events.

In a paper submitted to the Legislative Council on Wednesday, the Development Bureau said the owner of the Red House in Tuen Mun had agreed not to demolish the proposed monument.

The bureau said the owner also applied for a government subsidy under the Financial Assistance for Maintenance Scheme last month to restore the building.

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“As a condition of [the scheme], the owner shall not demolish Hung Lau [Red House] or transfer its ownership within 10 years from the completion of the maintenance works,” the bureau said in the paper.

The bureau added that if there was any proposal for “adaptive reuse” of the heritage building, which might involve redeveloping part of the structure, the owner must gain government approval.

Believed to have been built between 1905 and 1910, the Red House is a Grade 1 historic building, the highest in a three-tier grading system, which means every possible effort should be made to preserve the structure.

But in February, parts of the building’s surrounding walls were torn down and sections of window frames were later ripped out.

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The government declared the building a proposed monument in March to prevent further damage, while seeking further discussions with the owner about how to better conserve it.

Andrew Lam Siu-lo, chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, a body that oversees heritage sites and monuments, said the board was still waiting for the government to submit more details about the owner’s conservation plan.

He added that the board would review the proposed status of the building, which would be valid for a year after declaration, based on details of the plan.

Yuen Long District councilor Mak Ip-sing, who is also the orgainser of a concern group on the conservation of the Red House, said although he welcomed the new development, the lack of details about the conservation plan made him worried.

“Will the owner chooses to conserve the look of the building but turn the inside into something like a restaurant?” Mak said.

He said the land the building sits on measured about 30,000 sq ft, including a 5,000 sq ft park named after Dr Sun Yat Sen that had been well loved by the community.

He said the government did not mention whether the park would also be preserved and worried the owner had agreed to preserve the building in exchange for changing the site’s land use for redevelopment.

Mak called on the government to release more details about the plan.

The park is where groups affiliated with Taiwan gather to celebrate the island’s national day – October 10 – every year, for its links with Sun, revered by the island as the “father of the nation”.