Pro-Taiwanese villagers fly to defence of their Hong Kong enclave

Residents of Hong Kong's last pro-Taiwanese enclave, Rennie's Mill, made a last-ditch stand yesterday to prevent the demolition of their village, which once housed 30,000 former soldiers and their families who fought against the Communists during the Chinese civil war. The Hong Kong government says it needs the land for developing a housing estate. But the villagers, most of whom have already been rehoused, believe their settlement is being destroyed to remove a political embarrassment before China resumes sovereignty over Hong Kong next year.

Last month they won a High Court ruling that forced the government to pay a higher level of compensation in recognition of unfair treatment.

Yesterday, violent resistance to attempts by the housing authorities at a final evacuation produced a two-week reprieve. Riot police were called in and more demonstrations are threatened. But the veterans and families of the army which lost the civil war in China are likely to lose this battle, too.

Rennie's Mill was never a "normal" Hong Kong village. The proliferation of Taiwanese and Kuomintang flags quickly signalled the presence of something different .

The limited use of the local Cantonese, in preference to northern Chinese dialects, was another sign of separation.

The omnipresence of pictures portraying the Kuomintang leader, Chiang Kai -shek, and the founder of the Chinese republic, Sun Yat-sen, were a clear sign that politics continued to play a role in village life.

From its earliest days Rennie's Mill was affected by the stench of death and extinction.

The Chinese name for the village can be translated as "hanging neck ridge", leading to the popular myth that Alfred Rennie, the mill owner whose name was bestowed on the settlement, hanged himself.

In fact, he committed suicide by drowning.

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