The sun’s shining and I’m in the middle of a peaceful, green haven in Diamond Hill; a secluded island encircled by Lung Cheung Road and Choi Hung Road. I can hear the birds singing, yet, to my surprise, I cannot hear the traffic.
Towering above me is the former RAF hangar that’s been standing here for more than sixty years. But, Mother Nature is beginning to reclaim the ground on which it stands, and the structure is looking a little worse for wear: it has no roof and the steelwork is rusty.
Its present state doesn’t surprise me: the Antiquities and Monuments Office value this survivor from World War II as a ‘Grade III’ building – its lowest grading – so it’s received little attention. And the building has stood in all weathers, without its roof, and without maintenance, for many years.
This green island, once the site of Tai Hom Village (an illegal squatters’ camp), is controlled by the Lands Department. After clearing and demolishing the village, they fenced the area off and excluded the public. Slowly, it reverted to natural grassy parkland with a varied mix of old trees.
All day, every day, thousands of commuters walk past the old hangar, but the fence ensures they can’t go near it. If they look, they will see it – but they don’t look. They just walk by. This old building, which played its part in Hong Kong’s wartime history, used both by the Japanese and the RAF, has been left to decay; ignored and forgotten. And it may not be long before it disappears for ever.
According to reports, this secluded parkland is to become a depot for the new MTR Shatin-Central rail link … and the former RAF hangar must go.
The government could save it. They could dismantle and relocate it. They could give it a new use, a new lease of life … but they probably won’t. They’ll probably send in the bulldozers without warning, and without fanfare.
Why won’t they save it?
Because it’s not pretty and, although it’s deemed to have some merit, it appar-ently doesn’t have special merit – who decided that? – and because very few will protest, and very few will care.
However, there is a small band of enthusiasts trying to save this historical building. If you’re interested in helping them, send your name and email address to – firstname.lastname@example.org
But don’t delay – there’s not much time left!