Conservation groups blasted the Antiquities and Monuments Office on Thursday for “neglecting” a 129-year-old wall in an area in Central set for redevelopment. The office is in charge of protecting historic buildings in Hong Kong,

The wall is located on Gutzlaff Street and Cochrane Street. Sai Wan Concern group and the Central and Western Concern Group released a joint statement saying that “after discovering the site last October, government departments and the Urban Renewal Authority have consistently avoided resolving the matter.”

129 year old wall in central
The historic wall, which used to be part a group of tenement buildings. Photo: InMedia HK.

The groups said that they “requested the Antiquities and Monuments Office evaluate and publicise their research, as well as report to the Antiquities Advisory Board but the office did not respond positively.” They discovered that the office reported to the Advisory Board without providing the entire evaluation, instead they “only made a short and rough oral description and presentation.” The Advisory Board decided that the building would not be graded.

‘Victoria City’ heritage

According to the concern groups, the structure is “possibly the oldest ‘back-to-back’ tenement housing group remains site” in Hong Kong. The group said that it may have been built in 1879-1880 before a mice plague in the territory. The site reflects living standards in Victoria City, now known as Central, the group said.

The conservation groups said that the property was bought in 1900 by Eurasian tycoon Robert Hotung and his brother Ho Kom-tong. They sold it in 1916.

Hotung with brothers and family
Sir Robert Hotung (middle) with brothers and family.

The government amended laws in 1903, nine years after the 1894 mice plague, requiring that a back alley be made behind tenement buildings. The back-to-back structures then lost popularity.

Today, a back wall as well as several separating walls and part of the basement remain. Near the site, there are the remains of three other pre-war tenement buildings as well as a historic goods store and a century old stone nullah on Peel Street.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.