Hong Kong’s last sawmill faces closure over development plan

HONG KONG (AP) — Chi Kee Sawmill & Timber, the last operating sawmill in Hong Kong, has been processing lumber in the city for 75 years.

Soon, the family-owned factory near Hong Kong’s border with mainland China may be forced to close as part of a development: It was notified earlier this year that it had to move out of the plant, which has now been occupied for nearly 40 years, Make way for development projects.

Hong Kong residents went all the way to Chi Kee to buy sawdust piled high around the sawmill and collect a small piece of Hong Kong heritage.

Chi Keeben was supposed to leave by June 30, but it has been unable to move because there is still a lot of wood there, according to the local newspaper, the South China Morning Post.

Today, woodworking factories like Chi Kee have become a sunset industry in Hong Kong, and mass-produced imported furniture is readily available. Most sawmills have either closed or crossed the border into China, where manufacturing is cheaper.

The factory was established in 1947, around the time when the woodworking industry in Hong Kong began, a city famous for making furniture. It was originally located on Hong Kong Island, but in the 1980s it moved to Kwu Tung, a rural area in the New Territories.

The area will be developed under Hong Kong’s Northern Metropolis Plan.

It’s a blueprint for developing land close to the Chinese border into an IT hub that could provide tens of thousands of jobs and housing in the densely populated city, the world’s most expensive real estate market.

The plan also aims to integrate Hong Kong, a former British colony, with its own economy, more closely with neighboring Shenzhen, and beyond the border.

“At the time, we thought this was a remote area and would not be affected. Who knew it would become one of the most important development areas?” said Huang Hongquan, director of Chi Kee Sawmill.

“So we need to give it to our country, because the land belongs to the country. We just want some help and sympathy from the government,” said Wang, who gave up his dream of turning the sawmill into a museum.

The Hong Kong Development Authority, which is in charge of the city’s urban planning, said in a statement that Chi Kee sawmills were told to leave in the second half of 2021, but extended until June 2022, “which should give operators plenty of time. to arrange relocation and relocation if necessary.”

It said Chi Kee received land compensation, compensation for damage caused by the development, and planning assistance.

Although authorities have offered to help dispose of Chi Kee’s leftover wood, Huang hopes to turn it into products such as furniture, which he says will reduce waste.

At present, it is not clear when Zhi Kee will be permanently closed.

Local environmentalists such as Yu Ka-shing, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong, said that while the sawmill was loved by the public, it was difficult to preserve due to its lack of any historical or architectural significance.

Still, few flock to Chi Kee after hearing about Chi Kee’s days, saying it represents part of Hong Kong’s heritage. In an ever-changing city, even a small piece of wood has become something to grab onto.

Jones Kwong is one of those visitors.

“I think it’s a pity. It’s the only one left in this traditional industry and it will be demolished soon,” Kwong said.

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