The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has said it has quadrupled the archaeological excavation area of a 600-year-old walled village in Kowloon following new finds from the Ming and Qing dynasties. There will be no redevelopment until an archaeological impact assessment report is completed.

Redevelopment plans for Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen, the last walled village in Kowloon, were announced in 2007 by the URA; the final two occupants moved out in January last year. The URA found remains of watchtowers and stone foundations of the village wall in 2016.  The earliest structure was dated back to the Ming dynasty.

Overall view of watchtower and village wall remains at the southwest corner of the Nga Tsin Wai village. Photo: Urban Renewal Authority.

The expanded excavation work started early this year over an area of about 390 square metres, four times the licensed excavation area in 2016. An archaeological impact assessment is expected to be submitted by the end of the year. The URA said no redevelopment will be conducted until the report is completed and the government’s consent is obtained.

The original redevelopment was a joint venture between URA and CK Asset Holdings, previously known as Cheung Kong Property Holdings. It was intended to be completed between 2023 and 2024, providing 750 flats and a conservation park.

The estimated earliest constructions of the watchtower and village wall remains at the southwest corner was about Ming to mid-Qing Dynasty. The brick layer could be dated back to late Qing due to the repair and maintenance works. Photo: Urban Renewal Authority.

URA Executive Director (Commercial) Michael Ma said it was uncertain whether the excavation would affect the project schedule.

Nevertheless, Ma promised that the village’s gatehouse, Tin Hau temple, a stone tablet, and several houses at the central axis of the village would be preserved under the conservation park plan. “We have made a promise to the District Council that we will not demolish any structure within the conservation park,” Ma said.

Overall view of watchtower remains at the northeast corner of the Nga Tsin Wai village. Photo: Urban Renewal Authority.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan said he welcomed the URA move to fulfil its promise to conserve the site.

“It is rare in Hong Kong to see such a serious attitude in handling monuments,” he said. “In the past when railways were built and antiquities and Song dynasty monuments were found, [the government] decided to go ahead with development.”

Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen. Photo: Urban Renewal Authority.

He said the effect on housing provision would be minimal as the area will not be a major site for public housing.

“But there is still room to improve on transparency,” he said.

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.