(english below)







An Appeal from Professionals, Academics and Cultural Practitioners
on the Lee Tung Street Project

Dialogue Instead of Confrontation
Stop the Demolition of Lee Tung Street
Consult the public on URAЇs new "wedding city" proposal
Review the Urban Renewal Strategy

When the Urban Renewal Authority was established in 2001, its urban renewal strategy promises to preserve as far as practicable the local characteristics, preserve the social networks of the local community, and improve the quality of life of residents in the urban area. Unfortunately, all promises remain mere lip-service. The new URA chairman Barry Cheung boasted that the URA helps tenants to say goodbye to their miserable living environment. However, in actuality, the treatment tenants received in previous renewal projects was far from satisfactory. The URA uses the Land Resumption Ordinance to coercively resume properties and leaves tenants no choice but cash compensation. It deprives tenants of the right to choose whether to stay or to leave, and deprives them of the right to keep or develop their properties. Moreover, the URA often gives a deaf ear to tenants' complaints. Thus, ironically, all its practices violate the people-centred approach enshrined in its urban renewal strategy. The URA proves itself to be an even more ruthless real estate speculator than the private developers.

The bulldozer way of urban renewal practiced by the Hong Kong URA has long been abandoned by western countries in the seventies due to its de facto consequence of gentrifying old districts and pushing underprivileged citizens away from the city centre. A better and more progressive mode is to let tenants participate in small scale renewal projects. In this way, the original economic and social networks can be kept intact, and the community living environment can be improved at the same time.

The Lee Tung Street community movement was created to stop this bulldozer way of urban renewal. In the past four years, the tenants did their utmost to successfully come up with the city's first participatory urban renewal plan as an alternative to the URA proposal. Their plan calls for the preservation of about 30 tenement buildings in the middle of the street, their special character being the mixed residential, small industrial and retail land use. Surprisingly, although their plan won the silver award of the Hong Kong Institute of Planners, it was still rejected by the government, while the unpopular master layout plan set out by the URA (which received 192 negative official written opinions out of 196) was passed by the Town Planning Board without hesitation. Even more discouragingly, the URA violates all due process to continue the demolition of Lee Tung Street during the Christmas holidays, BEFORE the Town Planning Board can hear the second proposal to redevelop Wedding Card Street put forward by the Lee Tung Street (H15) concern group on 11th January, 2008. It was a repetition of the Star Ferry demolition strategy. The government attempts to create a fait accompli to shut up further protests by accelerating the demolition. May Yip, a long time member of the H15 concern group, was so furious to witness the demolition she decided to start an unlimited hunger strike. This was after she has done all she could in the past ten years of struggle.

As members of the professional, academic and cultural circle, we urge:

1. the URA to stop the demolition immediately until the town planning board discusses the second application of the concern group. It should engage the tenants in the planning process during this time.

2. the URA to consult the public on its controversial wedding city plan before implementation.

3. the government to review the Urban Renewal Strategy thoroughly. The URA is killing Hong KongЇs vibrant street culture, precious old neighborhoods and local creative businesses.

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