Anita Lam: Historic Taiwanese Village Threatened

Roundup: Talking About History

Full preservation of the last walled village in an urban area is out of the question because it is too dilapidated, the Urban Renewal Authority says.

A spokesman said this after eight of the remaining 13 owners of the 600-year -old Nga Tsin Wai village in Wong Tai Sin submitted a petition urging the government to press ahead with redevelopment.

"The village is derelict, with appalling hygiene conditions ... Apart from the Tin Hau temple and the entrance archway, there isn't anything else worth preserving," said the letter, presented to representatives of the authority, government and Wong Tai Sin District Council.
The Urban Renewal Authority said it was not a practical possibility. "This is no longer a conceptual argument. The reality is, we are unable to rebuild the whole village, it's too dilapidated," a spokesman said, but the authority had not yet reached a plan with Cheung Kong.

Valuable monuments such as the temple and archway - bearing an inscription "return with gratitude", commemorating villagers' return 300 years ago after an evacuation - would be preserved.

Historian Siu Kwok-kin said preservation of only pieces of a historic site was not enough. "They should have started their preservation work 20 years ago, not leaving it until now when the village is too broken to mend," he said.

Villager Ng Siu-hung insisted he would not turn his home over to a developer and hoped his children could continue to live there.

"Neither the Japanese soldiers nor the colonial government managed to demolish our village; it will be an irony if it's our people in the end who destroy our home," he said. But even Mr Ng had his price; he might reconsider if compensation for his 200-sq-ft house was raised from $ 2 million to $ 3 million.

Cheung Kong now owns more than 70 per cent of the village, the government more than 10 per cent and individual owners the rest.

Village head Ng Kao, who has given up his long-term campaign against the redevelopment, sold his house for $ 2.2 million to Cheung Kong last year.

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