Monday, October 28, 2013

Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen (衙前圍村)

It turns out that I was wrong about Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen, literally the village in front of the magistrate’s office.  I thought it was on the west side of Kowloon Walled City (九龍城寨) and was essentially completely torn down.  It turns out it is on the east side of Kowloon Walled City and it has not yet been completely torn down - yet.  I am indebted to a friend who pointed out my mistake.  And I have to apologize to those that I have misled, even though it was not on purpose. On Saturday I decided to go and have a look when I went out running.  

The government decided that it will “re-develop” Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen.  Evidently the Urban Renewal Authority has taken over most (perhaps all?) of the houses.  Most of the houses have been abandoned, and many have already been torn down.  Some have been gutted and only the walls stand.  For most of them, even the walls have been torn down and there is absolutely nothing left. 

My dictionary says “renewal” means to “extend the  period of time when something is effective or valid”.  In Hong Kong it seems to mean to raze, to demolish. 

There are still a few hold-outs.  Several houses are still occupied.  People are cooking, growing potted plants, keeping caged birds, worshipping at the Goddess of Heaven Temple, ...  

Several hair-cutters have set up their businesses in tents outside the village.  It costs only 20 dollars for a hair cut, and there were quite a number of customers on that Saturday morning.  Some have laid out their wares around the village. A store was still operating.  

Many banners complain about the low level of compensation for their houses, demand preservation and rebuilding of the village, complain about high pressure tactics of the government and the Urban Renewal Authority, ...  

The village is many hundreds of years old.  There was a wall around the village with many old buildings, that were quite historical.  But nothing was done to preserve the buildings.  The houses deteriorated.  Now they are beyond saving.    A once-vibrant community destroyed.  A familiar story all over Hong Kong. 


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