The demolition of the controversial Lai Chi Vun shipyards area has been postponed for a year; a period of time which will allow the Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC) to complete an evaluation process to determine whether Lai Chi Vun is a historical site.
The IC conducted a press conference on Tuesday to announce that the bureau has a year to conduct an evaluation through consulting with relevant experts and the public.
IC president Leung Hio Ming told the press that the evaluation process would formally start after Tuesday’s press conference.
“For the final result of whether we are going to enlist the historic site, it has to wait until we finish all the procedures – according to the law,” Leung reiterated.
The first stage of the process will include a further investigation of the details, data and historic facts about the shipyards area. After, the bureau will hand the investigative documents to a cultural preservation committee.
According to Leung, the committee is scheduled to conduct their first meeting at the beginning of April.
Aside from consulting relevant professionals, the president stressed that the IC would produce a detailed report on what they have at the moment and organize a public consultation period for at least 30 days.
The IC has pledged to organized seminars, workshops and to invite members of the public to hear their opinion.
“After we gather all the information from the public, with sufficient professional data and information, then we are going to make the difficult decision; and everything has to finish within one year,” Leung explained.
When questioned about what actions the bureau would conduct if the results pointed to a complete demolition of the area, Leung replied, “we cannot ignore the voice of society.” Yet he noted that the public should trust professional opinions and decisions.
Last Thursday, a group of concerned citizens handed a petition – which collated 670 signatures from Macau residents – to the bureau.
The group called for the IC to suspend the demolition immediately and conduct a cultural heritage assessment of the shipyards.
In the midst of several concerned groups criticizing the decision on demolishing the area, Leung listed the bureau’s fundamental opinion of the controversial issue.
“Our realization of this place is threefold: we must preserve the art of ship building, we have to preserve the old village living style in that area, and we have to preserve the [opportunity for] people to get in touch with nature,” the president vowed.
The first dismantlement of two lots in the area occurred on March 8 due to their precarious state.
The government reclaimed three properties in the Lai Chi Vun area in May 2016. Around that time, the former IC president, Ung Vai Meng, said that these properties – which include shipyards and two small wooden houses – would “serve to launch a display of traditions” showcasing the heyday of Macau’s shipbuilding industry.
Last month, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), proposed that masters of shipbuilding technology could be invited to help turn these houses into tourist attractions.
However, earlier this month, two lots of the Lai Chi Vun shipyards area were demolished given their precarious state.The Marine and Water Bureau said the demolishing was necessary since the structures were “seriously damaged due to lack of maintenance, which led to the partial collapse of the main structure of their premises, creating a high security risk.”
As recently as the 1950s, the coastal villages were thriving in Macau. Historical accounts indicate that at the time there were around 10,000 fishermen and over 30 shipyards in Macau, many of them in Lai Chi Vun.
Suffering from regional competition and the surge of the gaming industry in Macau, the industry collapsed in the 1990s.