Hakka houses are located in the border regions of Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi provinces in China. The Hakka originated from the Huanghe’s river central plain. They migrated southward in the fourth century to their current locations in a series of five moves to the modern times. Hakka dwellings are rectangular, circular, or square shaped Tulou, which stands for shoved earth structured houses (Wang 217).
They migrated through key rivers and various waterways where they entered the mountainous parts of the three provinces and constructed houses they felt ensured their safety. The migration covered 1000 kilometers in 1600 years. They spread further than Hunan to Guangxi’s west end. They then jumped over the Taiwan Strait into Taiwan. It is estimated that over 70 million Hakka are spread throughout the globe (Wang 227).
Owing to these migrations, various types of dwellings emerged in the three provinces. These included a mixture of rectangular and round houses (Wei Long Wu), the round houses (Yuan Lou) and complexes that were enclosed in rectangular walls (Fang Wei). Other forms of houses were created through the kind of transformation that was necessary to adapt to the local environment and climate where the dwellings were built (Wang 238).
Redevelopment of the Hakka Houses into a Luxury Boutique Hotel
If the Hakka houses are to be redeveloped into a Luxury Boutique Hotel, the steps outlined below will have to be undertaken to minimize the disturbance/destruction to the surrounding environment caused by the renovation and future tourists’ activities.
The investor can build the luxury boutique hotel while at the same time ensure that the Hakka houses are not touched; they could be incorporated into part of the hotel’s pavilion. This ensures that their uniqueness is preserved. This is because tourists would not travel miles knowing that they could have a similar experience in their own countries. If the Hakka’s uniqueness in its natural setting is preserved, it will continue to attract tourists. The Hakka’s could also be developed to increase their quality by ensuring that they stand out as a part of the hotel (Knapp 34). Apart from that various agencies involved in the conservation of archaeological sites, historical buildings, monuments and tourists sites will have to be consulted before any redevelopment is allowed (Rogers 234).
Scientific Evidence that the Impact Is Harmful to the Environment of the Hakka Houses
There is scientific evidence, which indicates that the proposed area where the hotel is to be built is located on alluvial deposits. Apart from that, out of four test pits conducted, three revealed that there was a disturbed area of about 1 meter in length that was closely followed by decomposing rocks in all the three cases. At the very bottom of the three excavated trenches, original alluvial deposits were found below a layer of 3 m deep (Knapp 36).
Available data from the boreholes dug in the area indicate that the proposed hotel site recorded a fill of up to 10 m. This was closely followed by alluvium or colluvium and in some cases, there was completely decomposed tuff. Water table in the entire site determined to be at an estimated depth of 4-5 meters. It is therefore visible that the colluvium and alluvial layers are likely to be impacted by the construction of the hotel and this would be a big dent to the ecological balance of the area since the water table would become weak (Rogers 235).
Data Where a Particular Site can be compared To the Hakka Buildings Site
Field-testing was carried out in the proposed site in 2002 by a different investor upon which the excavators found an area that was rich with archaeological artifacts. The area is located adjacent to the west of Hang San Wai Wong Chuk area. There were no reports of uncertainties in the data and therefore no areas for additional research were needed (Rogers 237).
Ways in Which the Issue Is Being Addressed
Any construction projects that are likely to encroach on archaeological sites should be avoided at all costs. Any unavoidable effects on the archeological and tourists attraction sites should be addressed with suitable mitigation measures. For instance, archaeologists and tourists may watch brief programs showing why qualified archaeologists and members of the Chinese national tourism board should be on the ground to monitor the excavation works in their areas of interest in the construction phase. The mitigation actions should be established by the monuments and antiquities office and be designed and executed by the private developer (Knapp 37).
The Public awareness of the “Threat”
This threat has already reached members of the public who have described some of the houses earmarked for demolition as nicely restored. Government heritage advisors in China have already been approached by members of the public to intervene in the plans by a private developer to tear down houses in the Hakka village, located in the Pak Sha O Sai Kung enclave. Some of these houses have already been nicely restored. However, the government has not yet acted given that the developer has already paid them some fee (Rogers 239).
The Scientific and Political Limitations for Addressing the Issue and their Agendas
According to scientists, the pulling down of these houses will have drastic ecological ramifications. On the other hand, conservationists assert that any form of redevelopment or demolition would adversely damage the cultural value of the century old Hakka village. However, the scientists’ hands are tied since their department has no mandate, whatsoever to stop the private developer from going ahead with his business or demolishing the buildings. Government ministers are already complacent in this matter since all they want is money from the private developer. The District Lands office and the Town Planning Board are working with the private developer since they already received money from him (Knapp 44).
Possible Solutions Being Proposed or Implemented
It has been proposed that this case should be taken to the Monuments and antiquities ordinance, which has a provision for the statutory framework for the preservation of objects that are deemed to be of paleontological, historical, and archaeological interest. The ordinance has statutory procedures that are involved in the declaration of monuments. The projected monument could be structures, a place, sites, or buildings that are perceived to be of public interest due to their paleontological, historical, and archaeological differences (Rogers 240).
In section six chapter 4 of this ordinance, the following actions are disallowed except under special permission. To deposit refuse or earth, to excavate, fell trees or plant and carry on building works in a monument or one that is proposed to be a monument. To interfere, demolish, deface, remove, or obstruct a monument or proposed monument (Rogers 241).
Secondly, the parties involved proposed that this case should also be handled by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) ordinance. This agency was incepted in 1998 and its objective is to control, avoid, and minimize the serious environmental effects of designated projects through the application of the environmental permit (EP) and the EIA procedure (Rogers 242).
Thirdly, the parties were also told to involve the Hong Kong Planning Guidelines and Standards organization. Chapter 10 of this agency enlists the planning ethics in the conservation of habitats and natural landscapes, archaeological, sites and historical buildings. The document outlines that the retention of critical heritage features will have to be adopted while creating conservation zones where users will have to be limited to guarantee the sustainability of the features of each heritage. These guidelines also assert that the notion of preserving heritage features will not at any one given time be limited to individual structures; rather, this will endeavor to hold the situation of the features both in the rural and urban settings (Rogers 243).
It is also stated that prior consultations with this agency is critical for rezoning or development that is likely to affect archaeological and monumental sites as well as their surrounding environments. Planning intentions for town plans that are deemed non-statutory at regional levels should include the protection of archaeological sites, monuments and other antiquities by identifying these features on regional layout plans (Rogers 245).
Finally, all drastic effects on sites that are deemed to be of cultural heritage are to be maintained at an absolute minimum. In addition, the overall assumption of effect assessment shall favor the conservation and protection of all cultural heritage sites. These include mitigation measures, baseline studies, and impact assessments.
Knapp, Ronald G. Chinese Houses: The Architectural Heritage of a Nation, Tuttle Publishing (2010): 34-45. Print.
Rogers A., Hong Kong and Po Toi Islands: The Archaeological Survey Antiquities and Monuments Office, Culture and Sports Department, Government of the Hong Kong SAR, Hong Kong. (2011): 234-345. Print.
Wang Gungwu, The Hakka in migration history. In: Wang G.: Don’t leave home: migration and the Chinese. Singapore: Times Academic Press, (2005): 217-238. Print.
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