Wing Lee Street, A Movie Location. Now You See It, Now You Don't.

The next battle in the war between heritage activists and the Hong Kong Government looks likely to be Wing Lee Street, in Hong Kong's Central District.

The Urban Renewal Authority has condemned nine out of its twelve tenement blocks for redevelopment.

It is now only two weeks to go until the street's fate is sealed at a scheduled Town Planning Board meeting.

What the government did not count on was the street gaining sudden notoriety, as it was used as the main location in Hong Kong director Alex Law's art house movie, 'Echoes of the Rainbow'.

The movie won the prestigious Crystal Bear Award in February at the Berlin International Film Festival, or 'Berlinale 2010 Festival'.

Since the award was announced, Hong Kong heritage activists, movie buffs and local people alike have been flocking to the street.

They come to soak up the atmosphere, take photos, whilst others are organizing a protest against the government's decision to demolish the street.

Most of the buildings on Wing Lee Street were built back in the 1950's.

Director Alex Law needed a location that had a Hong Kong-in-the-sixties feel to it.

This orange plastic chair has a seventies feel to it.

This printer is still running his business in the small street, which is off the beaten path, with no road access.

If the government's plan goes ahead, the crumbling street will be demolished later this year.

I can understand the heritage activists argument who say the issue is all about money. They point to Singapore as a shining, albeit sterile, example of how to go about successfully renovating old Chinese buildings. Closer to home, 'The Pawn' is often cited as an example too.

On the other hand some buildings are just a little bit too far gone. And I fear Wing Lee Street, in light of what happened recently in To Kwa Wan, may just be in that category.

But the real issue here is that a land premium the Hong Kong government receives from a developer who successfully bids for any given site at a land auction always far outstrips any potential expenditure the government would otherwise have to actually spend in order to renovate old 'tong lau' buildings. Selling slice after slice of Hong Kong's cultural heritage makes sense for the Governemnt as by doing so they don't have to pay for costly renovations.

Yes, it really is all about the money.


All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011