The official advisory body on antiquities has declared the historic Red House in Tuen Mun a proposed monument after it suffered further damage on Wednesday. Locals believe the house is linked to modern China’s “founding father” Sun Yat-sen, who may have planned revolutions in the area during the early 20th century.

The unanimous decision by the members of the Antiquities Advisory Board will provide the grade one historical building a year of protection from destruction, whilst further assessments on its historical value are made.

Red House
One of the broken windows of Red House. Photo: Yan Siu-nam.

It came after workers sent by the property’s new owner broke two windows on Wednesday – without approval from the Buildings Department. The move came despite the new owner saying he was willing to discuss preservation plans.

The Board had warned that no more acts of destruction would be tolerated.

Previously, the board was unable to establish a direct relationship between the property and Sun’s revolutionary activities, as the house carries some characteristics of the architecture in the 1920s and 1930s – more than a decade after the revolutions.

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The land on which it sits was sold to a company owned by a mainland Chinese person for HK$5 million last November.

Its future came into question last month as some of the property’s exterior walls were found to have been demolished, but the works did not receive the required approval from the Building Department. The new owner issued letters asking residents to leave at short notice.

Last month, the board rejected a proposal to declare it a proposed monument, saying that the owner was willing to discuss with the authorities how it may be preserved.

But its chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo has said at the time that any incident which affects the existing historical value of the building will trigger the mechanism to declare it a proposed monument.

Red House Hung Lau Tuen Mun
Previous destruction at the Red House. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

The new decision to declare it a proposed monument was made at a regular meeting of the Board on Thursday. Initially, its agenda did not include a discussion over the Red House. But it was made the first item of discussion after Wednesday’s incident.

The Commissioner for Heritage of the Development Bureau José Yam said at the meeting that the Buildings Department has ordered the works to be halted. He said the government has been in contact with the owner’s representatives and the Buildings Department has been conducting inspections.

Andrew Lam said at the meeting that the new owner’s actions have clearly violated the Buildings Ordinance that the destruction on Wednesday was not a minor change. He said the good grounds for negotiation between the board and the owner have been damaged.

The Development Bureau issued a statement saying that the government will start procedures to declare the Red House a proposed monument upon the support of the Antiquities Advisory Board.

A spokesperson for the bureau said: “We have been in communication with the owner. We will continue to discuss with the owner proposals of ‘preservation-cum-development’.”

Kris Cheng

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.