Alex Ho (left), General Manager, Education, Recruitment, Circulation, and Syndication Business of the South China Morning Post presents the award of Second Runner-up to Amber Chan Wing-kiu (right) of Pope Paul VI College
Seeing the word “witness”, you may think of a person who has beheld a crime. However, the witness of Tai O is a special one: not only has it witnessed crimes, but many interesting stories of people’s lives along the Tai O River over a long time. This witness is the Old Tai O Police Station, which is now conserved and revitalised as the elegant and luxurious Tai O Heritage Hotel Hong Kong.
With its colonial architecture and graceful arches, the Old Tai O Police Station has been a witness to the history of one of the oldest fishing villages in Hong Kong. The building is of great historical value and, fortunately, it has been restored and opened as a hotel by the Sino Group, reminding tourists and locals alike of the captivating good old days.
The Tai O Police Station was built to defend the village against bandits, pirates and smugglers in the past. Some equipment and facilities used, for example, canons, a search light and the guard tower, are now restored and displayed, so that tourists can have a feel for what old Tai O was like. But, along with dealing with crimes, the police also administered Tai O and bore a community role. Therefore, the villagers were connected closely with the police both for their safety and via administrative means.
Transformed into a heritage hotel, the old Tai O Police Station contributes to Tai O in brand new ways.
The heritage hotel standing in a scenic and peaceful environment attracts lots of people who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Hong Kong. They can stay in the hotel and enjoy a free and culture-rich tour around its magnificent architecture, learning about the history of Tai O step by step.
However, the Tai O Heritage Hotel Hong Kong aims higher than just disseminating its history. It intends to enrich society and link up past and present.
In order to keep the deep connection between the historic building and the Tai O villagers, the hotel has adopted various policies. “We provide job opportunities and training to Tai O natives. We even make use of the local food sold by the local residents,” says Frankie Lui, general manager of the Tai O Heritage Hotel Hong Kong, referring to the pork chop bun prepared with local shrimp paste.
The hotel obviously has done a lot of hard work to give the hotel a new life and retain the village’s social network. It is also reassuring to see how much the Sino Group is willing to devote to this small but extraordinary place.
Heritage is one of the media through which we can preserve history and stories, leaving knowledge and wisdom to the coming generations. This is how humans continue to develop into a civilised community.
Thankfully, in the age of money, there are still people who take up the responsibility for conserving our culture without hoping for a return. That is how the Tai O Heritage Hotel Hong Kong revitalisation has become possible; that is what makes it a witness of history.