When I tapped ‘Kowloon tourist ideas’ into my ‘phone’s Google, not too far from the top of the list came Nga Tsin Wai Tseun, billed as Hong Kong’s last walled village. Since I arrived in Hong Kong far too late to bear witness to the Kowloon Walled City (demolished in 1993-4), I thought catching a glimpse of the last remaining walled village would be worth the trip. I read that the village had a history of more than 600 years and was easy enough to get to; it seemed all to the good.
Different internet search queries return different lists. I had searched for tourist ideas and was pointed to the village. If I had searched for the village itself, I would have been pointed to a set of articles about its demolition. But I hadn’t searched for that so I didn’t know about its demise. It was with some disappointment that I arrived at the village only to find a chain-link fence, notices telling me to keep away, and a glimpse of half demolished buildings.
So much for Hong Kong’s heritage, for its local character, and for low rise buildings. In a city run (it feels) by and for a handful of landlords, development is all that matters. A patch of land without a tower full of tiny flats is a patch of land that is wasted.
As I stood outside the fenced-off village remains, I wasn’t alone. A group of old men sat at a little table beneath a large red board covered in signs. I could read not a single sentence beyond one with the village’s name, but it was clear what is was about. So sat the remnants of the village’s action group, there to watch the slow destruction of the life they had tried to save.