HONG KONG: Residents have been saying goodbye to Kowloon's last walled village, Nga Tsin Wai, which is being redeveloped after standing for more than 650 years.
Jan 17 was the deadline for all remaining villagers and businesses to leave, with all of them having accepted the compensation package offered by the Urban Renewal Authority.
Nga Tsin Wai Village dates back to 1352, part of the 'Kowloon League of Seven' - a union of seven villages to ward off pirates and bandits at a time when Hong Kong was just a fishing village.
The harbour has long since disappeared and the village has witnessed old Kai Tak Airport open and close, but its defensive wall remains intact.
But that wall was not enough to defend against the property developer Cheung Kong Holdings, which bought up nearly 70 per cent of the properties during the 1980s.
Later in the 90s, the government announced plans to redevelop the village, citing a lack of sanitation and the poor maintenance of buildings.
The village has remained exactly the same for hundreds of years, made up of three narrow streets, as well as six smaller lanes.
According to the Urban Renewal Authority, it will try to recreate the village ambiance as far as practically possible. That means maintaining or preserving the main village gate, a stone tablet and the Tin Hau Temple.
A local resident walks past the rear of the iconic Tin Hau Temple. (Photo: Roland Lim)
Resident and taxi-driver Leung Kwok-Hung who first moved in more than 20 years ago, stayed put until the very end.
"Very sad, very sad because I feel that history has come to an end for this 600-year old village. Today (it is) still a village, tomorrow, it'll be another big site. That's it, you can't do anything,” he said.
Leung said he will miss the village atmosphere and community spirit that it provided.
"When I first moved here, everybody stared at me, because I'm a stranger to them, they said. And then later on, people getting to know each other, our friendship improved.
“At that time, we don't even have water. We have a public water supply so people would go to wash their clothes there, and even the kids would take a bath there. And where there's space, they would play football."
Local residents speak to the media after all finally agreed to move out of Nga Tsin Wai. (Photo: Roland Lim)
The last two businesses left standing, a village barber shop and grocery store owner, have also finally agreed to move out.
"I was the last. The pressure to vacate was very high,” aid Kwok Yu-ka, owner of Keung Ngai Barbershop.
“Last night, a lot of supporters and friends said they would set up camp to support me. I thanked them for all their support, but I was afraid they'd freeze out here. And I then told them that I'd already signed,”
Kwok and his two sisters had been running the street-level barber shop, offering cheap haircuts priced at US$2.60 and serving many loyal customers over the last 20 years.
The Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen Redevelopment Concern Group criticised the government for not offering fair compensation to the current owners to restart their businesses inside the redeveloped village, as rents would be high.
Two residential towers are expected to be built at the site, with completion expected in 2019.