Over 1,000 Appealed to Retain New Horizons Building
Support Christian Action’s Stay,
Maintain Social Welfare in Kowloon East

Since mid-December last year Christian Action (CA) has received over 1,000 signed letters and cards of appeal from service users, corporate clients, partners and staff to appeal for the government’s reconsideration in demolishing New Horizons Building (NHB), CA’s headquarters and main service and training centre for over 30 years. The petition and appeal letters handed to various members the Kwun Tong District Council yesterday (10 January) with one clear goal – to retain NHB so that CA can continue serving the community at large.

The NHB and its neighbouring area are included in Hong Kong government’s redevelopment plan for the Kowloon East district, and the development of land along Wang Chiu Road, where NHB is included, is currently under consultation. Should the development plan be confirmed, this area will be redeveloped for public housing and a new secondary school and consequently, NHB will be demolished and CA will have to move out. Seeing such urgency, CA saw this as a critical time to hand in the petition letter to the Kwun Tong District Council.

NHB has been rented by CA under Short Term Tenancy (STT) as an “O” site (“Open Space” zone) for over 30 years, providing services to vulnerable groups within the community and neighbouring area. According to Executive Director Cheung-Ang Siew Mei, since acknowledging the government’s intention in 2014, CA has been communicating with government parties to find the most appropriate solution with the least disruption on social services. However, little satisfactory progress has been made except for the grant of lease from Labour and Welfare
Bureau two days ago (9 January) to extend CA’s stay at NHB until 30 June next year.

Cheung stated: “To clarify, we are not opposed to public housing development. While we fully recognise the government’s needs in developing public housing, we urge the government to consider fulfilling social service needs within the district – especially for the incoming grassroots community that will come with the new housing development.”

Established in 1985 CA has been a major non-government subvented organisation in Hong Kong providing pioneering social, humanitarian services, education and training for the disadvantaged, benefitting refugees, underprivileged women and children, low-income families, ethnic minorities, new arrivals, and migrant domestic workers. Over 1 million attendances have benefited from CA’s services in 30 years.

As a headquarter, NHB is a pillar for the coordination of CA’s 20 social service and training centres and 5 community sales outlets across Kowloon and New Territories. Opening beyond normal office hours, the services provided at NHB include after-school children care, counselling services and youth programmes, along with community-friendly services such as a community information and cyber centre, public reading area for local grassroots women and elderly, as well as a weekend drop-in and training centre for foreign domestic workers. CA also provides retraining to the underprivileged and unemployed, training up to 23,000 students per year, among which 45% were trained at NHB. Over 60,000 attendances are served at NHB per year.

Over 750 appeal letters received are from CA’s service users, among 500 are from residents of Kowloon East, including Kwun Tong, Kowloon City, and Wong Tai Sin. Ling, a single mother whose daughter is supported by CA’s after-school childcare programme, was one of them. “With my chronic illness I was not able to properly take care of my daughter. Since I cannot work, I felt useless and had a very low self-worth. In our counselling session I was encouraged by CA’s social worker to volunteer and help other mothers like me. I eventually became a long-term volunteer, mainly assisting with picking up children from the after-school programme, managing their class and so forth. The opportunity not only made me feel like I have a purpose, it also improved the relationship with my daughter, whose academic performance was also boosted under the staff’s undivided care. Recently I also signed up for CA’s retraining course and I am confident that, with my improving health, I should be able to contribute back to society as a working mother in no time. I really hope the building can be retained, so CA can continue to provide these services for us.”

Cheung added, “Should NHB be demolished, the disruption of CA’s services will have a tremendous effect on existing service users like Ling and will pose a further impact to the social welfare, leading to more issues such as rising unemployment in the grassroots community. With the petition today we are seeking support from the Kwun Tong District Council and to urge the government to reconsider and allow us to stay, so that we can continue to fill the service gaps for existing and new residents in Kowloon East.”

Event photos & captions:

CAPetition KTDCPhoto1 In order to seek support from Kwun Tong district councillors and to urge government to reconsider the demolition of New Horizons Building, CA representative submitted a petition letter and appeal letters to Dr. Bunny Chan, Chairman of Kwun Tong District Council.
CAPetition KTDCPhoto2CAPetition KTDCPhoto3CAPetition KTDCPhoto4 Various district councillors expressed their support for CA to continue its services for the marginalised in Kwun Tong, further stating that they will urge the government to make a proper decision.
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