A series of demonstrations and “protest hikes” quickly followed. And within two weeks the developer at Sai Wan gave up and closed down work.
But the fight to save Sai Kung Country Park from development is far from over. Concerned citizens have now unearthed more than 20 separate development projects that encroach on land in, or very close to, Sai Kung Country Park. Petitions are being passed around. Hikers are printing up protest tees. Students, middle class families, grannies and grandpas are getting involved in land protests for the first time in their lives, and nothing will be the same again.
“We helped wake up a giant,” said Wayne Yim, the founder of the “Save Tai Long Sai Wan” Facebook group. “The quiet majority of Hong
Kong people have shown they will no longer stand by and let developers take away their core assets.”
The dizzying speed of events also revealed a new world where citizens, not media groups, set the news agenda.
Mr Yim started his facebook group titled “We strongly condemn the destruction of Tai Long Sai Wan and demand the immediate cessation
of the construction!” on July 16th. Four days later there were 20,000 members. A week after that, 50,0000 members. “People are joining at
the rate of about 10,000 a day,” says Mr Yim.
Everyone has their reasons for joining. For one thing there is a growing suspicion that the government is too cozy with property developers and cannot be trusted to act in the interests of the community. “In some ways this is the countryside version of the Star Ferry
demolition,” says Paul Zimmerman, of Designing Hong Kong and a key activist in the fight for Tai Long Sai Wan. “The destruction of the Star Ferry shocked people into realizing that if they could not rely on the government to protect heritage, they must raise their own voices.”
“Tai Long Sai Wan is equally shocking. People have been coming here for decades. Everyone presumed that laws were in place to protect it for the community. So when images of the devastation began to get out people were very shocked and angry and - this time - they were ready to take action.”
Mr Yim, the founder of the Facebook group, says there are other several reasons why the site went huge. One is the hiker groups: “There are a number of very old hiking groups with interests in this area. Some such as Friends of Tai Long Wan are actually more than 10 years old so they already have strong networks and a clear understanding of what is at stake. The vast majority of hikers are anything but radical people. But well, people have been shocked into action...”
Walking with the “protest hikers” on a Sunday in late-July, it is clear just how the Tai Long Sai Wan issue has woken people up. Almost everyone has a camera. At times people are almost queuing to photograph the bulldozers and devastation. More than 700 people
- including Sai Kung Magazine - sign a large banner promsing to fight the destruction of Tai Long Sai Wan.
“I don’t care for politics and I didn’t march for democracy,” says one senior, surnamed Chan. “But this issue is different. There is no gray area here. No argument for defacing this beautiful beach or for taking it away from the community and fencing it off for some rich developer. The fight to keep this beach open and unpolluted is a fight for the future. We do it both for ourselves and generations to come. It is an absolute good.”