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Real estate developers demolished the Tiger Balm Garden in 2004. The adjacent Tiger Balm Mansion (aka, the Haw Par Mansion) has remained vacant for more than a decade, nestled in the shadows of four skyscrapers, including the Legend, a luxury residential complex at Jardine's Lookout.
The government hopes to preserve the mansion through a pilot revitalization scheme that would allow business interests to lease the site for commercial use. Some local stakeholders began protesting the plan after an October 15 rezoning of the site.
David Lai Tai-wai is a district councilor for Jardine's Lookout, an upscale neighborhood in Wan Chai District. Lai is especially vocal in opposing the government's plans. He is leading a Haw Par Mansion redevelopment concern group, and he wants the government to turn the mansion into an Asian heritage museum.
"This is a collective memory of all of Hong Kong, not just for local residents," he said.
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His group formed with 50 members the day after the rezoning.
The Haw Par Mansion is open on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am until 4 pm. This weekend will conclude the government's public consultation at the Grade 1 heritage site.
More than 16,000 people have attended so far, said Suzanna Chan Chung-kwan, the Assistant Secretary at the Development Bureau. Attendance spiked last Sunday with a single-day tally of 7,600.
Many visited because they live in the neighborhood, others because the site has important implications for the future course of heritage conservation in Hong Kong.
Some visitors came to revisit fond memories of Tiger Balm Garden's audaciously tacky, multi-colored murals and statues - and they were disappointed. The Tiger Balm Gardens are long gone, buried beneath the Legend's foundation.
Complaints were audible among many passers-by in the mansion's crowded private garden. The small garden lacks the bombastic charm of a mountainside packed with concrete sculptures. Notable examples once included a rabbit marrying a pig, and the 18 levels of hell from Taoist philosophy, complete with a demon cutting the tongue from a liar's mouth and a human fried for eternity in a wok.