Hundreds of protesters have rallied at the Red House in Tuen Mun urging the government to preserve the historical site linked to modern China’s “founding father” Sun yat-sen. The Development Secretary said the bureau was highly concerned about the demolition and may list the house as a proposed monument if necessary.
The large piece of land, which holds the 100-year-old house and a park commemorating Sun, was sold to a company owned by a mainland Chinese person for HK$5 million last November.
Walls of the house and water pipes were destroyed as residents faced eviction by Sunday. Representatives of the owner also threatened to cut the electricity.
But lawmakers and district councillors from different parties said the house, where Sun and his comrades were said to have planned revolutions to overthrow the last Chinese imperial dynasty, must be preserved to teach history to the next generation.
Groups flock to the park every year on October 10 to commemorate the revolution that led to the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the founding of the republic. The Republic of China’s government fled to Taiwan following defeat in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and the People’s Republic of China was founded by the Communist Party. Today both governments nominally claim to represent the entirety of China and refuse to recognise one another.
Sun is respected as a national father by all sides across the strait, including both the Kuomintang – the party he formed – and the Chinese Communist Party.
A representative of a local Taiwanese group said they may gather funds to repurchase the piece of land.
Johnny Mak Ip-shing, a pro-Taiwan Democratic Alliance district councillor who organised the rally, said the site and the monument were the only places in Hong Kong commemorating Sun.
“This place was where our national father Sun Yat-sen planned revolutions so that we Chinese do not have to be slaves again, so that we Chinese can have dignity again,” Mak said.
Some protesters displayed the flags of both the Republic of China and the Kuomintang party. They also brought tri-colour ribbons representing Sun’s ideals of democracy, freedom and fraternity, and stickers that said: “All hearts gathered together to preserve the Red House.”
No reason for destruction
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin said the new owner’s actions forcing residents to leave were “rude” and occurred without any reason.
“If we do not take action to preserve it, I am worried they may destroy it all in one or two days,” he said. “This is not an area that can be developed into residential use – even if the owner wants to make big money, nothing can be built yet after the destruction.”
“The cost is so cheap, there is no rush to destroy and force residents to leave – can you feel that there may be some unspeakable motives, political motives?” he said.
Currently, the Red House is listed as a grade one historical building. But this designation does not protect it from demolition.
The lawmakers submitted an urgent question at the Legislative Council and called for the Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung to list the site as a proposed monument so that it cannot be demolished.
“So many have come in such a short time – it proves this place is very important to us all,” said Chu. “In fact I am very confident – no one will be able to destroy the Red House and the Sun Yat-sen park.”
Beatrice Chu Shun-nga, a Democratic Party Tuen Mun district councillor, said they have contacted the local government district officer and prepared documents for a discussion at the district council.
Yim Tin-sang, a former district councillor for more than three decades, was born and raised in the area.
He revealed that when he was a member of the now-abolished Regional Council, the government objected to the pro-democracy camp’s proposal to list the site as a declared monument.
“Some government representatives privately told us not to actively ask for a park to preserve the Red House – even when we asked for a toilet here, the Regional Services Department told us they were strongly against it,” Yim said.
“Some top officials said it was used by the Kuomintang to host October 10 celebrations – if they continue to use it, will ‘the top’ [Beijing] be happy?” he said.
“We don’t know if this was truly the will of ‘grandpa,’ or if they were just shoe-shiners who did not want to offend Beijing… now that the relationship between the Kuomintang and the central government has improved, we don’t know if the top level truly will not allow a monument for Sun Yat-sen.”
Yim also said that the Development Bureau changed the zoning for the adjacent area from greenbelt to residential use in 2014, in line with the government’s land policy.
During the rally, protesters signed letters to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Tommy Chang Juo-ming, chairman of the Hong Kong & Macau Taiwanese Charity Fund, said he believed it can find ways to gather “whatever amount needed” to save the site.
He said all means could be considered, when asked whether they will contact Beijing or the China Liaison Office.
After the rally, the protesters tied tri-colour ribbons around the site and pasted stickers on walls.
Mr. Kwok, who said he dressed up for the rally, came with around 60 people in a tour bus.
“This should be listed as a heritage site… without Sun Yat-sen, you and I will still be wearing long braids like in the Qing Dynasty,” he said.
Mr. Fan, 19, who was sporting a Kuomintang vest at the rally, said that the public can see Hong Kong’s position in revolutions through the Red House.
“This is a very local piece of history compared to the Hong Kong Palace Museum – a foreign object,” he said.
In a response to HKFP, the Development Bureau said that it was “highly concerned” about the engineering works.
“It is our knowledge that the works involved the removing of trees and temporary structures, and has not affected the main building of the Red House,” said the bureau.
The bureau cited the Buildings Ordinance, saying that the owner of the site needs to obtain permission from the Building Authority before commencing demolition and reconstruction.
Secretary for Development Eric Ma said on Sunday that the Antiquities and Monuments Office was actively trying to reach the owner and may list the Red House as a proposed monument if necessary.
The Buildings Department posted notices on the walls of the Red House demanding a stop to the unapproved destruction. The bureau intends to apply for a court warrant for entry to inspect the destruction.
Mysterious new owner
The mysterious new owner of the Red House, Xiao Junfeng (translation of 肖俊鋒), was born on June 30, 1988, and has a mainland Chinese identity card number issued in the Yuexiu district of Guangzhou.
Xiao’s apparent “address” in Hong Kong is the same as the address of a firm named United Faith Accounting and Secretarial Ltd. United Faith’s website says it can help clients incorporate a company within 12 working days.
He purchased the Red House’s greenbelt site in November through a Hong Kong company named Goodberg Limited, which was only incorporated late last year. Goodberg’s address is the same as that of a firm named Company Kit Registrations Limited.
Xiao has not registered any other businesses in Hong Kong using his mainland identity card number.
HKFP found that the mainland owner of a Japanese restaurant in Mong Kok shares the same name as Xiao, but could not confirm whether this is the man who bought the Red House.