The remaining residents of the last walled village in Kowloon will not move out, although the government has demanded they leave the 600-year-old village, as demolition is scheduled for late January. A concern group for the project has criticised the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) as a “robber” in redeveloping the village, using public money to replace it with two private housing buildings of 30 to 40 storeys.

Currently, 15 households still live in the Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen in San Po Kong. Residents complained that the URA had asked them to leave before promising allocation of public housing flats and relocation for their businesses, Apple Daily reported.

Chong King-ming, who grew up in the village, said the URA’s plan did not protect his rights, and he would only give up his property to it after he was allocated a place to live.

Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen
Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen. Photo: Urban Renewal Authority.

Kwok Yu-ka, who has run a barber shop in the village for some 20 years, said he would not accept the HK$300,000 compensation from the URA as he had not been allocated a public housing flat. He said that the URA should help him reopen his shop in the same district.

The Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen redevelopment concern group said that the URA’s plan for business owners to reopen shops in the same village after redevelopment only promised HK$600 rent per month for three years, then it would switch back to the market price.

The group said the plan would not allow business owners to continue providing cheap services for grassroots people. It demanded the URA extend the rent discount to 20 years.

Residents in protest against the redevelopment plan.
Residents in protest against the redevelopment plan.

Another resident, Leung Kwok-hung, said that the URA had promised him that he could buy a public housing flat at Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate, but two months later the URA told him that he was mistaken.

Leung said that they would block officials of the Lands Department, which is responsible for pulling down the village, if they come in January.

“If they come to demolish our houses, where can we take our belongings? We will take them down below the URA’s office and set up tents,” Leung added.

The URA told Apple Daily that it would cooperate with the Lands Department. It would also help residents who did not meet the requirements for public housing flats to move to the URA’s temporary flats.

‘Kowloon League of Seven’
Redevelopment plans for the village commenced in 2007. Most of the residents of the village have already moved out. The URA wrote on the project information page that only one-third of the village houses were left and that they were “very decrepit”. It noted “illegal occupations surrounding the project boundaries”.

Walled villages are traditional groups of structures built by Hong Kong indigenous people who settled in the New Territories and Kowloon after the Song Dynasty. Many walled villages are literally surrounded by a walls as a defensive measure. Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen’s protective wall is the only one formed from the outer walls of the houses within it.

It is the last remaining village of the “Kowloon League of Seven”, a defensive union of seven villages formed to guard against pirates and bandits, according to a LegCo document citing the government’s Antiquities and Monuments Office.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.