The Antiquities and Monuments Office has maintained the listing of the historic Union Church in the Mid-levels at Grade III after an independent re-evaluation.

The Grade III status means that “preservation in some form would be desirable,” but offers no legal protection against demolition. The 68-year-old church building on Kennedy Road is set to be replaced by a 22-storey mainly-residential block. The five lowest floors will be home to the new church, while the other floors are planned as residential units.

union church
The demolition of Union Church is underway. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Antiquities Advisory Board Chairman Andrew Lam said that unless any new information comes to light, the case will not be reopened. He added that most of the material submitted for the review was already considered in the initial grading exercise. The only new piece of information was that Cantonese opera stars Yam Kim-fai and Bak Sheut-sin once made a recording in the Union Church.

See also: God or Mammon? Who gains when Hong Kong’s historic churches are turned into blocks of flats

Lam told reporters after the meeting that the outcome was a pity and admitted that there are restrictions under the current system, but the suggestions of the independent committee should be respected.

union church demolition

Lam also said that the historical value of a building may change with time – for example, a building that was initially listed as Grade III may become valuable in its scarcity if other buildings are demolished. Therefore, regular reviews are conducted, but resources are limited, Lam said.

The advisory board also discussed the status of Tuen Mun’s Red House, which locals believed is linked to modern China’s “founding father” Sun Yat-sen. Following several instances of the building suffering damage, the Antiquities Advisory Board granted it a temporary protective status for 12 months in March.

According to the Development Bureau, the owner has agreed not to demolish the building. It said that there is no evidence to show the building is related to revolutionary activities involving Sun Yat-sen, and there is no new evidence to upgrade its current historical listing.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.