Protesters picketed the historic Union Church on Sunday in a last-ditch effort to save the building from demolition.

Photo: SocRec.

The church leadership signed a deal with Henderson Land Development earlier this year to redevelop the 68-year-old stone structure in Mid-levels into a 22-storey block of apartments.

The five lowest floors of the new building will be home to the church, while the upper floors will be flats.

Photo: SocRec.

According to photos and videos posted by local media, demolition has already begun, with the interiors gutted and the stone steps outside broken into pieces.

Speaking to TVB’s Pearl Report in May, members of the church leadership said the redevelopment will allow the church to grow and develop its work in Hong Kong.

Photo: SocRec.

But a concerned member of the congregation, who requested anonymity, questioned why the church building had to be knocked down at all.

“I simply do not believe that in order to develop the church’s work you have to knock down the church building. If that’s the case, why don’t you say, knock down the St. John’s Cathedral, knock down the Westminster Cathedral, knock down St. Paul’s Cathedral?”

“I just think that it’s really really heartbreaking. I just cannot believe that… they can just knock down old buildings in Hong Kong, and there’s nothing that the government can do to stop it from happening,” she told HKFP on Monday.

Established in 1844 by the London Missionary Society, the original Union Church building was destroyed during the Second World War. The current church on Kennedy Road was built in 1949.

The sanctuary and bell tower of the church were listed as Grade III historic buildings in March, which means that “preservation in some form would be desirable,” though it offers no legal protection against demolition.

Katty Law, convenor of the Central and Western Concern Group, told HKFP that the demolition of the building would be a huge loss to Hong Kong. She said it was a rare example of modern church architecture in Hong Kong, and held historical value as its original founder – Rev. James Legge – was an important figure in Hong Kong.

“It has almost become a landmark… whether you’re a Christian or not, it’s a very iconic church.”

“It’s particularly upsetting that the government – whether with planning or heritage grading – could not stop [the demolition],” she added.

The church has relocated to the Sunlight Tower commercial building in Wan Chai until redevelopment is completed. It is expected to take around five years.

HKFP has contacted Union Church for comment.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.