All progress in this region has been a product of collaboration with academic, NGO, governmental, and commercial organisations. With that in mind, Chinachem Group CEO, Donald Choi sat down recently with some Alliance villagers to discuss their experiences of change, and to hear about plans for the future. The venue for this chat was a traditional Mui Tsz Lam village house, partially restored as a project undertaken by students from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and over tea and locally harvested tangerine, the four villagers shared their hopes and opinions. Opening the discussion, Donald was keen to hear about the government’s support for the Alliance villages in the form of transport infrastructure. In response, Mui Tsz Lam village head Tsang Yuk On, who was born in the exact house in which they were sat and able to trace his family’s Mui Tsz Lam roots back to the 17th century, was clear in his opinion that connectivity is key to the community’s survival. He noted that the gradual lifting of restrictions around the Sha Tau Kok closed frontier area, and the access provided by the Lung Shan Tunnel, is improving the ability of the public to visit the villages. The next step he believes is to provide more facilities for those who make the effort to come, suggesting the establishment of a tourist centre providing information, and the creation of staycation venues from existing village homes.
Left to right Human Ip, Tsang Wai Yip, Donald Choi, Fan Ching Yau and Tsang Yuk On
Young artist Human Ip is a newcomer to this part of Hong Kong. Writer and illustrator, she grew up in the concrete jungle of the city but fell in love with Lai Chi Wo and its extensive variety of flora and fauna whilst hiking in the area. Her fondness for the landscape led to a discovery of the very different way of life offered by this community, and in 2019 Human took the bold step of moving to a permanent home in the village. She’s very clear on the value of the cultural and educational benefits engagement with these Hakka settlements and their surrounding landscape offer. “Many Hong Kong people don’t know much about their surroundings,” she noted, a condition she’s trying to combat by bringing the students she teaches to the area to study the plants and wildlife. “I taught in secondary schools and universities before, and I know students can learn many things outside campus in places like this, such as culture, architecture and biology.”
Agreeing, Donald Choi noted, “Yes, this is not just a tourist attraction for locals, it’s an opportunity for everyone to experience the charm and relevance of unique rural living.”
Photo Credit: School of Architecture, CUHK
Their sustainable approach to inviting a wider audience to appreciate and participate in maintaining, preserving, and enhancing this unique microcosm is working, and the changes it delivers are positive. On departing, Donald Choi remarked to the group, “There are many lessons to be learned from these collaborations, some we could do well by adopting in our large city communities. It’s inspiring, and I’m looking forward to my next visit to see yet more progress”.