The new owner of the historic Red House in Tuen Mun will not demolish the building, as he has applied for government funds to restore it. However, the application may block conservation activists from purchasing the house.

The land on which the building sits was sold to a company owned by a mainland Chinese person for HK$5 million last November. 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. Following several instances of the building being damaged, the Antiquities Advisory Board granted it a protective status of 12 months in March.

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The Red House. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

The Development Bureau said in a document provided to the Legislative Council that the Commissioner for Heritage’s Office and the Antiquities and Monuments Office have been negotiating with the owner’s representatives over the past few months about preservation and development options.

Financial assistance 

They reached a consensus that the Red House will be preserved and not demolished. Subsequently, the owner applied for the Financial Assistance for Maintenance Scheme in September for restoring the house. The Bureau said it is processing the application.

As a condition of the scheme, the owner may not demolish the property or transfer its ownership within ten years from the completion of the maintenance works.

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Johnny Mak (centre). Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

A monument commemorating Sun Yat-sen next to the Red House is the location for an annual flag raising ceremony for the Republic of China’s national day on October 10. The new owner also owns the land where the monument sits.

Johnny Mak, a Yuen Long district councillor known for his affiliation with the island nation, previously said that he and others were negotiating with the new owner to buy the building and prevent further damage: “Our stance is that, most importantly, it will not be demolished,” he told HKFP on Wednesday.

Mak said he was not sure whether they would be able to buy the property under the funding scheme, or how the house will be preserved or developed.

“If the owner wishes to sell, we would still gather funds to buy it,” he said. “We don’t want to see it become a development project.”

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Previous destruction to the Red House. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Government assistance

Meanwhile, the Bureau said that, if the owner wishes to propose “adaptive re-use” of the house for preservation and development purposes, the owner will need to obtain the consent of relevant government departments.

It said that, if the proposal is consistent with the prevailing heritage conservation policy, the Commissioner for Heritage’s Office would give policy support and assistance to the owner. It would include supporting the owner to submit a planning application or rezoning application to the Town Planning Board, as well as help with applications to other departments to aid compliance with building and fire statutory requirements.

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.