Urban Renewal Authority forces Graham Street Market to accept unwelcome changes

A waiter slices lemons in front of a tea cafe in  the Graham Street Market. The chalk sign on display reads "Fighting until the Last Minute," an expression of protest against the URA-sanctioned eviction. Photo by Cheryl Xie.

A waiter slices lemons in front of a tea cafe in the Graham Street Market. The chalk sign on display reads “Fighting until the Last Minute,” an expression of protest against the URA-sanctioned eviction. Photo by Cheryl Xie.

In 2007, the Urban Renewal Authority first announced their plans to clear several blocks of the Graham Street Market, one of the oldest street markets in Hong Kong, in favour of a contained indoor wet market. These buildings were to be replaced by modern high-rises, while the ground-level shops would be displaced without a clear indication of where they could go.

Many shopkeepers came together to protest these plans, prompting the URA to promise a building to accommodate the displaced vendors. Still, most vendors are not satisfied with the new building: eviction notices have already been sent out, yet the building is nowhere close to completion and cannot hold all of the evicted shops.

At So Ha Vegetables, shopkeeper Amy voices her concerns about the lack of consideration for local businesses. “We were told one thing and given another,” she says. “A handful of business owners got together with the URA to sign an agreement that many of us were satisfied with.”

This area doesn’t just affect locals; it is also a very popular spot for tourists getting a glimpse of Hong Kong culture. Miss Nataly, a tourist from Germany, thinks that the shops and stalls should all stay because they’re “good for the people here, because it is cheaper than the [chain] stores”. The environment, she says, is better outside because it is not as cramped.

Not everyone will move. The street stalls are allowed to stay operating in the pedestrian road. The vendors continue selling their wares like they have done for many years, and have no intention of leaving their stalls for years to come.

“It is unfortunate for the shops in the buildings,” says Miss Lee, a flower vendor. “We don’t need to move, but the construction still affects our business. At least I don’t need to find new customers,” she adds.

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