Hong Kong Historical Monument May Become Wine Cellar

By Wang Wenjun, Epoch Times
September 24, 2013 8:07 pm Last Updated: September 25, 2013 6:10 am

HONG KONG—If you visit Hong Kong’s century-old Western Market, you’ll find, art exhibits, specialty shops, a restaurant, and an old fabric market relocated from a nearby street—but these classic tourist attractions may not be around much longer.

The Urban Renewal Authority has plans to change the historical building into an up-market wine cellar, forcing shops to relocate despite a promise made to the owners over twenty years ago.

Western Market, formerly known as Sheung Wan Market, is one of Hong Kong’s oldest Edwardian style buildings.

Western Market was classified by the Antiquities and Monuments Office in 1990 as a national historical monument, a Declared Monument. According to the Leisure and Cultural Services website, 101 sites in Hong Kong have this designation.

In 1991 the original two-story building was renovated, adding two more floors through internal changes. It has since become a leisure and nostalgia outlet and popular tourist attraction.

The first floor is devoted to cloth and fabric stores, which had originally been on nearby Wing On Street, Central (locally known as Fa-Po Street, “street of fabrics”).

Mr. Chan, who has run a fabric shop with his wife for over 50 years, showed the Epoch Times a document issued by the former Land Development Corporation (LDC). When the LDC bought his original property at Wing On Street, they promised to guarantee his resettlement.

The promise does not seem to have survived twenty years. If the building becomes a wine cellar, the fabric shops and other specialty stores will have to go. The old Wing On Street collection of fabric stores will most likely be dispersed.

Several shop owners told the Epoch Times that they hadn’t heard about the plans or had learned about them from the media.

“If we have to move, it will be very troublesome,” said Mr. Choy, who has been in the fabric business at Western Market for over 20 years.

“If the government wants us to move, we will have no choice,” said Mr. Pao, who has had a florist business on the ground floor for 20 years. “We are worried; we don’t know where to go.”

Mr. Pao added that if the fabrics shops upstairs start a petition, he will join them.

Mrs. Chan described her husband’s devotion to their trade of selling cloth: “Every roll of fabric is placed personally by him, very carefully and precisely. All fabrics are purchased from overseas, including England.”

“People in the trade know at a glance, foreigners love it when they see the brand names,” Mr Chan said. “If forced to close, my treasures would become rubbish to others—what would happen to my whole life’s investment and love?”

“I have been doing this all my life, Mr. Chan said. “If I lose it, I will lose my life!”

Written in English by Sally Appert.

Read the original Chinese article.