For reporting on the clearance, I went to Tiu Keng Leng for the first time in July 1996 and subsequently a few times to interview the residents who vowed to stay. I felt a deep sense of loss when walking up the narrow paths flanked by largely abandoned small huts and houses. A part of Hong Kong history would be gone forever, I thought to myself. Indeed, who would have known the history of Tiu Keng Leng now, 14 years on, which has become an area crowded with housing, and housing only?
On the eve of the clearance which took place on 30 July 1996, I had interviewed Madam Ko chun-kwan, aged 68, who had a Buddhist temple in Tiu Keng Leng. In those times, Tiu Keng Leng was a self-contained community, lying next to the sea. The residents had made the community the way they wanted it to be, including putting up a Buddhist temple.
Madam Ko’s sons, who were born in Tiu Keng Leng and later moved out, made a special return to the temple to be with her on the eve of clearing. “I feel so much for the temple. It has a seaview and is so tranquil. I feel very sad to be leaving here.” She blamed the government for not giving her land and enough money to build another temple.
“The compensation money is not enough. Neither has any land be given to build a new Buddhist temple. You tell me, after you demolish my temple, where should I put up the Buddha statues?” she asked.
“The government oppresses us. They are even worse than bandits.” She added.
“I am of course not feeling good on the eve of clearance. But it won’t stop me sleeping. I am optimistic about life.”
If Madam Ko were alive, she would have been 82 today.