Wing Lee Street
From The Westside Stories
|Wing Lee Street|
|Wing Lee Street, [[Sheung Wan, Hong Kong]].|
Wing Lee Street(Chinese:永利街) is a street located in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. There are some old history printing shops and 1960s buildings, or tong laus (唐樓), that become the features of the street. Wing Lee Street is originally one of the areas to be redeveloped by The Urban Renewal Authority (URA). But after Echoes of the Rainbow was filmed at the street and won an award at the 2010Berlin Film Festival, voices of preserving the whole street became strong and finally the redevelopment plan was scrapped. The concrete plans of preservation are still under discussion.
Wing Lee Street is about 0.2km long. The street numbers are from 0 to 12. There are nine tong laus built in the beginning of 1950s. One is a private residential building. Most of the buildings are for residential use from the first floor or above, the shop on the ground floor is either used for commercial or locked as being URA’s property. The three commercial stores are stated printing shops, yet only two of them are still operating. Most residents have moved out.
There were extensive small-scale printing shops at Wing Lee Street in the 1970s and 1980s. At peak sessions, there were more than ten shops within such a short street. But now only two of them are still operating.
According to shop owner of Wai Che Printing Co. Mr. Li, who have been operating the printing company for more than thirty years, says “In Central, there were used to be over a hundred of printing shops. But only a few is left now.” With high land price and entering the era of computerization, the traditional printing is being eliminated by society.
The old printing machines that have accompanied Mr. Li since his start of printing business, are no longer used anymore. “They are old and we now do the printing in a separate shop. Faster and better.” Mr. Li continued. In a bid to provide extra revenue to help cover the operating costs, some healthy products are consigned to sell at the shop.
Tong Lau is essentially a balcony-type tenement building for residential and commercial use. At an early stage, all buildings at Wing Lee Street are tong laus , one of them is re-furnished to a three-storey private residential building for lending at the higher price. The tong laus later become the feature of the street.
Preserving the traditional printing culture
Being one of the oldest printing companies in Hong Kong, Wai Che Printing Co. possesses an old printing machine having used for more than fifty years for letterpress printing. The machine itself is already a historical antique. letterpress printing is relief printing of text and image using a press with a "type-high bed" printing press and movable type. The shop owner Mr. Li had preserved a full set of movable types. It is hoped by him to build a printing history museum for more people to know this traditional printing. “I am sure many young people have never seen a real machine for letterpress printing,” says Mr. Li. He is now working on publishing post cards with the theme of letterpress printing.
Preserving old tong-lau-style living
After the 1960s, many tong laus were demolished to give way to taller apartment and commercial buildings. Comparatively few tong laus are found in Hong Kong today. Wing Lee Street is one of the sites left with tong laus . Especially in high-price land like Central, it is rare to preserve all the old buildings on one street. People can reminisce the old life of Hong Kong grossroot people by visiting Wing Lee Street. People can find things that cannot be found in high rising living areas, like green iron balconies, wooden windows, clothes racks hanging above the sidewalk.
Urban redevelopment plan
Under H19 redevelopment plan, originally, together with separate redevelopment plans on Staunton Street , URA will keep three tenement buildings out of the nine tong laus , others are redeveloped for residential uses. This is due to the shabby structure of the tong laus . Yet, later after a heated debate on whether the street should be reserved as a whole, even the property collecting procedures by URA had been in progress, and over 50% of the shop owners had agreed to sell their ownership, the plan was changed into preserving whole street. The final plan was announced on 16thMarch,2011.  And the concrete plans of preservation by Town Planning Board have yet been released.
Preservation of the whole Wing Lee Streets and its tong laus , some residents are happy to hear that because most residents are elderly that they can keep the harmonious relationships and neighborhoods. Also, the rent is cheap that residents do not have to worry if the compensation is enough for moving to a comparable place. As the street is finalized not to be redeveloped, some residents worry less about forced actions by the government. They have greater flexibility and freedom for their own land usages.  Also, this action matches with the public’s call for preservation of local history. As all of the tong laus will be preserved 100%, not just so-called “mock tong-lau style” residential buildings.
Some concerned parties hold opposite views. Some residents reflect that the living conditions are so poor that they have always wanted to move out. As the tong laus are old and lack maintenance, residents, tenants, small shop owners may spend their own money or staying at the equally poor conditions, without compensations from the government.
Some residents feel disappointed for not being able to improve their living environment, say moving into public housing. Some shop owners just could not get compensation for moving the business to better equipped commercial building. 
Also, the concrete preservation plan yet to be released has triggered some residents or tenants’ discontent for their slow action. “I have witnessed the government not giving us a concrete solution for more than ten years,” says Mr. Li, the shop owner of a printing company there. “The government just keeps us waiting.” Mr. Li said some residents also share the same feeling with him, they feel lost and just wait for an answer.
Location & Traffic
Wing Lee Street lies horizontally, it starts from ladder street and ends at Shing Wong Street. You can Travel on Citybus Heritage Route H1, get off at 7th Stop - Ladder Street for 3 mins walk.
’’Echoes of the Rainbow’’ (traditional Chinese: 歲月神偷; literally "Time, the Thief") is a 2010 Hong Kong drama film directed by Alex Law and starring Simon Yam and Sandra Ng. It won the Crystal Bear for the Best Film in the Children’s Jury "Generation Kplus" category at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival.
It tells the story of a working family in Hong Kong whose eldest son, a popular boy and star athlete, becomes ill with leukemia.
The film is set in 1960s British Hong Kong and was shot on Wing Lee Street. It was financed by the Hong Kong government's Film Development Fund’.
The award-winning film has stirred much debate on preservation of Wing Lee Street. Later Wing Lee Street has drawn large crowds of the both local and overseas general public and photographers.
- ↑ http://www.inmediahk.net/taxonomy/term/507148 永利街一號之:李伯的字粒(上、下集)
- ↑ http://www.ura.org.hk/html/c806000e10e.html Reserved Buildings, Urban Renewal Authority
- ↑ http://www.devb.gov.hk/en/publications_and_press_releases/speeches_and_presentations/index_id_5891.html Secretary for Development speaks about Wing Lee Street, Development Bureau
- ↑ http://gwulo.com/wing-lee-street Wing Lee Street
- ↑ http://the-sun.on.cc/cnt/news/20100317/00405_003.html 擱置重建有人歡喜有人愁17/3/2010 The Sun Daily
- ↑ http://the-sun.on.cc/cnt/news/20100317/00405_003.html 留住舊夢 留住新愁 留住永利街－－17/3/2010 Apple Daily