Members of the Union Church Hong Kong staged a protest at the church compound in Mid-Levels to oppose a redevelopment project that will turn the 68-year-old complex into a 22-storey residential building, hk01.com reports.
The redevelopment project, which will be handled by Henderson Land Development, will provide 45 flats while the lower five floors will be allocated to the church.
The Union Church had applied for redevelopment project back in the 1990s and the proposal was approved by the government in 1997.
The building’s sanctuary and clock tower were designated Grade III historic buildings earlier this month.
Under the agreement between the church and Henderson Land, the rights to the building, including at least 19 flats, will be under the Union Church and all development costs will be borne by the developer.
It is understood that the Union Church complex on Kennedy Road has started to undergo dismantling and renovation work since last week.
The Central and Western Concern Group cited an open letter from church members who pointed out that the church has not opened a tender for the project nor consulted experts to prove that the church is beyond repair.
The protesters said church leaders have refused to reveal the members of the committee in charge of the redevelopment, potential conflicts of interest, and how the developer will benefit from the project.
Some church members who joined in the protest said the Union Church has now become a place for rich people to live in rather than worship.
Yuen Chi-yan, a member of Save HK Heritages, pointed out that the land lease forged between the church and the government way back in 1960 provided that the land would only be used for religious purposes, which means that the government could take back the land if that provision is violated.
Yuen noted that Chief Executive Carrie Lam had promised to “protect Central” but was now allowing a place of worship to be turned into posh apartments.
Legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said the British colonial government had allowed the plot to be sold only for religious purposes but the church is now trying to swindle Hong Kong people out of their heritage.
The concern groups that joined Sunday’s protest urged the Union Church to shelve the redevelopment plan with Henderson Land and the government to rethink its policies on land lease and redevelopment of heritage sites.
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