The new mainland owner of a historic Tuen Mun building located where China’s “founding father” Sun Yat-sen plotted revolution in the 1890s has demanded tenants to leave, amid fears it could be pulled down.

Lawmaker and conservationist Eddie Chu interviewed residents of the Red House in Sun Yat-sen Park on Thursday evening. Residents told him that since ownership changed hands last November, trees and walls around the building were pulled down, and they were issued legal letters ordering them to leave.

Demolished structures around the Red House. Photo: Eddie Chu Facebook screenshots.

“The legal letter was issued on January 18, and was put on [the building] on January 26,” said one resident in the video. “It said we have to leave within a week.”

Another resident said that on February 10, men arrived at the scene asking them to leave, causing a commotion until 2am. Residents then called the police, and the men left.

“The next day, some people came, and started engineering work and demolition,” he added.

Debris around the Red House. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

A social worker in Tuen Mun told HKFP that one tenant on Wednesday “moved out of the building in such a rush that I came looking for his two cats.”

An HKFP reporter observed debris around the Grade One Historical Building, which was still standing. Around three households still lived there.

Lawmaker Chu, however, said that policemen arrived on the scene earlier on Thursday because some public property – such as trees – was demolished. Chu suspected that the building would soon be pulled down.

Debris around the Red House. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office defines Grade One Historical Buildings as having “outstanding merit, which every effort should be made to preserve if possible.” The Red House was given this status in 2009.

New owners

According to Land Registry documents seen by HKFP, the house was sold by a descendant of the prominent philanthropic Li family of landowners to a company named Goodberg Limited for HK$5 million on November 14, 2016.

The current sole director of Goodberg is an individual named Xiao Junfeng (translation of 肖俊鋒), who possesses a mainland Chinese identity card.

The Red House’s sale and purchase agreement.

The company was only incorporated in September last year, and was registered to an address of an industrial building in Tsuen Wan, same as the registered address of Xiao and its company secretary General Accounting & Secretarial Management Limited.

The founding member of Goodberg was Newform Limited – also the first secretary of the company with a registered address at a shelf company supplier – and the first director was Kevin Ip Kar-yuan of a house in Mok Ka Village, Tung Chung, before Xiao became director in October last year.

Newform’s current directors are Ip and Eric Mok Wai-yin. Mok’s registered address and email is of the shelf company supplier.

Residents of Red House told lawmaker Chu that they did not know anything about the background of the new owners.

Sun Yat-sen connection

The area on which the Red House is located was originally part of a farm owned by the Li family, who were merchants in the 19th century.

The Red House in its original state. Photo: Honeybee via Wikicommons.

In the 1890s, the family allowed Sun Yat-sen and other members of the Revive China Society – an underground group aiming to overthrow the Qing Dynasty – to meet, train and store weapons at the farm.

After numerous failed attempts at revolution, an uprising in Wuchang, Hubei on October 10, 1911 led to the founding of the Republic of China – whose government relocated to Taiwan in 1949.

Based on the architectural style, the Red House building itself appears to have been constructed in the 1920s or 1930s.

Video: Taiwan’s CTV News reporting on Republic of China National Day celebrations at Hong Kong’s Red House in 2016:

“Every year, supporters of the Kuomintang [the party established by Sun] in Hong Kong go to a garden at the back of the building to commemorate the October 10 Festival,” said lawmaker Chu. “The house is a very important revolutionary artefact in Hong Kong history.”

HKFP has contacted the Antiquities and Monuments Office for comment.

Additional reporting by Elson Tong.

Kris Cheng

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.