History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 5)

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.

History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 1)

History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 2)

History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 3)

History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 4)

History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 4)

Every household’s rooftop in the then Tiu Keng Leng had a Kuomingtang flag, an indication of the loyalty of the people to the Kuomingtang government in Taiwan, though it was this same government that had abandoned them.

A friend of mine lived in Lam Tian, near Tiu Keng Leng when she was small. “When it was the 10th October, the Double Ten day, I saw big banners hanging on the walls everywhere, celebrating the occasion. And the Kuomingtang flags were hoisted everywhere.” The Double Day is the national day for Republic of China, established in 1912 after the collapse of Qing Dynasty. It was and is celebrated in Taiwan after Kuomingtang ruled on the island. Since Lam Tian is near Tiu Keng Leng, many families who lived originally in Tiu Keng Leng, moved to Lam Tian.

Announcement of Demolition
People had been enjoying peaceful life in Tiu Keng Leng where they built up their home and their community from scratch after being abandoned. This clip on Youtube has captured the essence of the place before its demolition.

The peace was shattered in 1991. In view of the explosion in population and the need to develop new towns, the Hong Kong government decided to demolish Tiu Keng Leng starting 1991 and turn it into a new development area. It requested the Tiu Keng Leng residents to move out and offered them HK$7,000 per square feet as compensation.

Since the colonial government promised to the residents in1961 that they can reside permanently in Tiu Keng Leng, a legal battle ensured between the residents and the government. The court ruled in favour of the residents, saying that the government had broken its promise by evicting the residents and it needed to further discuss with the residents regarding compensation. But the court ruling had yielded no concrete benefits for the residents. Tiu Keng Leng was destined to be history.

It was late July in 1996 when I was a journalist reporting on the last few days of the life in Tiu Keng Leng before it was cleared. By that time, most of the residents had accepted government’s offer to move out. Only a few stuck out and insisted not to move.

History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 1)

History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 2)

History Stories: Tiu Keng Leng (part 3)