Saturday, April 18, 2009

HK Resettlement Areas 徙置屋邨

20 years ago when I was still in Hong Kong, there were lots of resettlement areas around. At that time I didn’t pay much attention to these areas until now I regret not having too much memory of it. I only recall I’ve been to Wang Tau Hom Estate when I visited my grandparents at the age of four or five. Fortunately I’m able to obtain handy and helpful information about resettlement blocks through the internet, thanks for the technology (without internet I don’t think I can get the resources easily and share that with others)!

Beginning of Resettlement Areas

The population in Hong Kong was about 600,000 after WWII. Between 1945 and 1950 its population increased to 2 million since large number of people coming from mainland China as a consequence of the Civil War. At that time the housing stock of Hong Kong was completely inadequate so many immigrants settled in wooden shanties in squatter areas. On Christmas Eve in 1953, more than 50,000 people were homeless after a fire swept through Shek Kip Mei squatter area. Due to the crisis, government started constructing the resettlement blocks for the homeless people and other squatters.

Types of Resettlement Blocks

There are six types of resettlement blocks – Mark I to VI. A place with a few to a few dozens of resettlement blocks is called resettlement area (RA). Mark I and II were 7-stories blocks with no bathroom and kitchen in each unit. In the 60s more advanced housing has developed – Mark IV and V, 16 stories building with washroom and kitchen in each unit. In today’s living standard, the design of Mark I to III blocks may be considered as inhuman and intolerable; but back then people were happy and satisfied with their homes since living in a concrete building was safer and more reliable than in squatter huts.

Mark I Block – H shape:

The earliest type of resettlement blocks in Hong Kong. These H-shaped 6 to 7 story houses contained back-to-back rooms on the long arms. Each unit was about 120 square feet with no kitchen and washroom. Only the cross bar of the H contained public washroom, showers and running water. Cooking was done on the access corridor outside each unit. Rooftop was used as school and community centre (天台小學).

Mark I Resettlement Block Floor Plan

Chai Wan Estate 柴灣邨

Shek Kip Mei Estate 石硤尾邨

Mark II Block -日shape:

It was first appeared in the East Village (東頭邨) around 1959. The design was very similar to Mark I blocks except a larger separate unit with its own washroom and kitchen was built at both ends of each story.

Mark II Resettlement Block Floor Plan

Tai Wo Hau Estate 大窩口邨 1961

Mark III Block – I or L shape:

Nothing much different from Mark I and II only each unit had a private balcony.

Mark IV Block:

In mid 60’s there was a big improvement in the construction and design of resettlement blocks. Mark IV became high rise buildings – 13 to 20 stories. Each unit finally not only had its own balcony but also washroom and kitchen. Normally two elevators could be found in each block – but the elevator only stopped at ground and one particular floor.
Of course the size of each unit was bigger than those in Mark I to III – probably around 250 - 350 square feet. The shape of Mark IV building could be I or E or T.
No more schools and community centers on the rooftops instead they were built separately within the resettlement area.

Tai Wo Hau Estate Block 20 in 1966 - the only Mark IV block in its resettlement area

Mark V Block:

Very similar compared to Mark IV – I or T shape (the T built significantly shorter than in Mark IV). Some blocks were connected together to create a wide or extra long corridor. The unit area had more choices.

Mark V Resettlement Block Floor Plan

Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate Block 13 牛頭角下邨第13座 in 1969

Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate Block 13 牛頭角下邨第13座 in 2008

Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate Block 8 牛頭角下邨第8座 in 2009

Mark VI Block:

Not too much info I could find for VI blocks – they were built in the early 70’s, should be pretty much the same as IV and V but the unit areas were larger than in the previous block types.


As the demolition of Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate II (Mark V blocks) will start this month, the period of Hong Kong resettlement areas is completely ended. The buildings have valuable history but unfortunately none of them can be kept. Even though the living standard in today’s society is much better than decades ago, the mutual support between neighbours (守望相助) or people with warm hearts and sincere smile (人情味) during resettlement block era is not easily found in the modern dwellings.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Memory of Leslie Cheung

Today is April fool and also the 6th anniversary of Leslie Cheung’s death. Leslie (張國榮) was one of the most popular superstars in Hong Kong during mid to late 80’s. His popularity was just like Elvis Presley in the 60’s and Michael Jackson in the 80’s. His career was not limited to singing on stage but also acting in movies. I didn’t pay too much attention to Leslie during my childhood since I was a kid and his market was mainly for adults particularly young ladies. But I still remember seeing him on TV very often such as from EYT (歡樂今宵 – a family entertainment show running every weekday evenings), Jade Solid Gold (勁歌金曲 – a music show releasing once a week) & TVB Anniversary Gala (萬千星輝賀台慶), etc. The first song I heard from Leslie probably is 430穿梭機 (430 Shuttle – a kid program on TVB Jade starting at 4:30 pm Monday to Friday from 1982 til 1989). In December of 1989, Leslie declared his retirement from singing career and held the Final Encounter of the Legend Concert for 33 consecutive nights at Hong Kong Coliseum. I recall passing by the Coliseum one night during Christmas in 1989 and there were many people waiting to get in for Leslie’s final concert.

A few months after Leslie’s retirement, I had a chance to watch his first concert on a tape – Leslie Cheung Summer Concert 1985. After watching the concert, I got a clue why he was so successful and outstanding from the others – attractive appearance with melancholic eyes, charm and sweet smile, special and distinctive voice. Both his images and songs were combination of east and west.

Leslie sang so many hit songs during his lifetime such as 風繼續吹 (The Wind Blows On), 第一次( First Time), Monica, 少女心事(Young Girl’s Thought), 只怕不再遇上 (Afraid We Won’t Meet Again), Stand Up, 當年情 (Past Love), 無心睡眠(No Mood To Sleep), 沉默是金 (Silence is Golden), etc. But there are two songs I particularly like which were somehow as not popular as the others - 片段 (Piece of Memory) & 可人兒 (My Sweet Girl).

片段 (Chinese version of “Casablanca) sung by Leslie during his concert in 1985

可人兒 a song from the movie “Last Song in Paris” in 1986

Does anyone know where to buy Leslie’s Summer Concert 1985 since I want to watch it again?