Reply To: Pak Sha O threatened by developer


Longer, excellent article in SCMP includes:

PAK SHA O HAS been recognised by the government's Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) as having buildings worthy of preservation. In 2009, a number of the buildings and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel, which stands at the back of the village, were included on a list of 1,444 historic buildings drawn up for grading purposes.

Its history can be traced back to before 1860, when Hakka families moved to the area from Yantian, in modern-day Shenzhen, and switched from fishing to farming and lime production. In the early 20th century, one of the families, called Ho, made some money through a successful venture recruiting workers for foreign steamship companies. The money was invested in the village and a family compound was built, comprising a watchtower, an ancestral hall with an open courtyard and adjoining houses. It is these buildings that are listed by the AMO and which still form the heart of the village.

Pegg has been involved in the renovation of 12 houses in the village, including that of the Coxes. She says it was her appreciation of the historical value of the village and its environment that inspired her to take on the projects, repairing broken roofs, windows, doors and cracked walls, and replacing flooring.

… 'I have poured my heart into this village. We and our neighbours have worked very hard to maintain the village and its character. It is a very beautiful village. It has a lot of history and the special thing about it is that it is being lived in,' she says.

The company behind the applications is Xinhua Bookstore Xiang Jiang Group. Its director, Lau Ming-shum, refused several requests to answer questions about the proposed houses or give any reassurances about retaining the character of the village. In an e-mailed response sent through an employee, Lau said: 'This is not the right time to give any comments.'

According to the Companies Registry, Lau is the director of a number of companies, including the Treasure Group, which shares the same Tai Po address as Xinhua Bookstore. The Treasure Group website says it is a licensed moneylender that specialises in financing, mortgages, the sale and purchase of land and the construction of village houses. It credits itself with building more than 1,000 village houses in Sha Tin, Tai Po and Sai Kung. It also features a gallery of photographs of the kind of houses it has built. They are three-storey blocks, with smooth plastered walls, ornate wrought-iron railings, flat rooftops, balconies and ordered landscaped gardens.

They are not the kind of buildings that complement the natural charm and untamed wilderness of Pak Sha O…

Plots on the Landscape

China Daily has also carried a fine article – also by Hazel Knowles – on the village, including:

The future of this village where Hong Kong’s rural past is freeze-framed is coming under threat, say residents. The village people are concerned about a plan to build modern houses in the heart of the 150-year-old village.

A Tai Po company has submitted applications to the Lands Department to build two three-storey houses. The plan, if it gets the go-ahead, will see the first new buildings in the Pak Sha O in almost 50 years and the first examples of modern-day architecture in the village.

Residents fear the new houses will mark the beginning of the end for the village and that many more new houses could follow. The current residents want to preserve what they considered an important part of Hong Kong’s history. “It really would be tragic,” said village resident Tim Kay. “As far as I know this is a unique village. It’s a living Hakka village. It must be one of the best examples of a Hakka village that’s not surrounded by modern development.

“Most other Hakka villages around Hong Kong are either so remote they have been left to fall down or the ones with roads to them have been developed.”

Unravelling the Past

There's a fine blog post by Richard Peters, including:

this village is a small, vulnerable and fragile remnant of a past era of simple, somewhat-unassuming Hakka folk that literally forged their lives from the environment. Its unambitious beauty really does mean for some, 'once bitten, forever smitten'!