Enter the diggers: Bruce Lee's former Hong Kong home demolished

Bruce Lee's former home on 41 Cumberland Road in Kowloon Tong has been demolished.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Bruce Lee's former home has been torn down despite a decade-long campaign by fans of the late kung fu legend to preserve the mansion.

Demolition work on the two-storey building at 41 Cumberland Road in Kowloon Tong was finished on September 28.

Only a mosaic left by Lee on the wall outside the mansion, and four window frames from the building that will be installed in the centre for Chinese studies to be built on the original site, remains.

Joey Lee Man-lung, vice-chairman of the management committee of the Yu Panglin Charitable Trust which owned the house, said they regretted the failure to preserve the building after the trust did not receive any new proposals from the government to preserve the home.

In November last year, the trust said it planned to turn the house into a centre for Chinese studies to offer courses on Mandarin and music.

In July, it was decided to demolish the mansion after structural problems were discovered that made maintaining the building unfeasible.

The appraisal of the consultant hired by the trust, carried out earlier this year, found that concrete spalling had deteriorated on a large number of reinforced concrete beams. The report described the condition of the concrete as "extremely bad".

Based on the consultant's assessment, Joey Lee estimated renovating and repairing the 5,699 sq ft property would cost about HK$20 million (S$3.5 million), similar to the cost of demolishing the building and erecting a new one.

The Yu Panglin Charitable Trust was founded by billionaire philanthropist Yu Pang-lin who died in 2015.

Joey Lee said the construction of the new building was expected to be completed by August next year.

Bruce Lee lived in Hong Kong as a child before returning to the United States, where he was born, at the age of 18. He taught martial arts and starred in many films, rising to global stardom.

He spent his last years with his family in the Kowloon Tong mansion before his sudden death on July 20, 1973, at the age of 32.

Yu bought the house in 1974 for about HK$1 million. At one point, according to historians, the house was used as a short-stay love hotel.

The billionaire had planned to sell it in 2008 to raise funds for victims of the Sichuan earthquake, but dropped the idea when fans urged him to preserve the property and restore it. Bruce Lee affectionately called the mansion The Crane's Nest.

Yu had offered to donate the house to the government for it to be turned into a Bruce Lee museum. He asked the government to relax land usage restrictions and allow him to build two or three basement floors so the proposed museum could include a cinema, martial arts training centre, library and exhibition hall.

But Yu and officials failed to reach an agreement and the plan was scrapped in 2011.

The Bruce Lee Club launched an international online petition in July to urge the government to preserve the kung fu legend's former mansion.

Wong Yiu-keung, the club's chairman, criticised the government for abandoning the plan to preserve the house, when there had been a good chance to reach a deal nearly 10 years ago.

"The government has let all Hongkongers and Lee's fans around the world down," Wong said.

"If you ask me how I feel about the demolition of Bruce Lee's house, I would condemn this government."

A spokesman for the Development Bureau said on Friday the building was not a graded historic building, and the bureau had not received any conservation proposals from the owner.

"We will explore suitable economic incentives to encourage owners to conserve their graded historic buildings," the spokesman said. "The form of economic incentives will be considered on a case-by-case basis having regard to the circumstances of each individual case."

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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