Noah's ark opens in Hong Kong

|PIC1|The world’s first biblically proportioned Noah’s Ark was opened to the public on Monday in Hong Kong.

Its builders - Chinese evangelical billionaires - say they hope the ark will promote positive values.

Speaking at the opening of the Ark to the public at Ma Wan Park in Hong Kong, Chan Kai-ming, Executive Director of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) said, “Noah’s Ark is a new tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Ma Wan Park shows SHKP’s long-standing commitment to building homes with heart and contributing to the community.

"Noah’s Ark will give Hong Kong a new tourist attraction and help promote positive values of love for life, family and nature.”

“Noah’s Ark is a place where people can get close to nature. The facility is full of happiness and positive messages, with many interesting interactive facilities and activities. It will lift people’s horizons with new knowledge and let them rethink life and experience love,” said Moses Cheng, Ma Wan Park Advisory Committee Chairman.

The concept behind Noah’s Ark are the Kwok brothers, heirs to Hong Kong’s largest real estate developer SHKP. They have built the 450-foot-long ark and luxury hotel complex complete with 67 pairs of fiberglass animals to draw visitors from beyond the city’s limit.

Thomas Kwok, an evangelical Christian, is the main champion of the project that has been in discussion for 17 years. The ark is inspired by his Christian faith, but will not be promoted in an overtly religious manner.

Instead, the message being promoted is that the financial storm will soon be over and new life, represented by the animals emerging from the ark, will soon be opened up.

But despite avoiding an obvious religious message, the ark - the foundation of which was laid in 2004 - was developed in partnership with five Christian organisations.

The Ark is on a 270,000-square-foot site on Ma Wan Island overlooking the Rambler Channel and Tsing Ma Bridge. There are five levels with different themes. The lower ground floor has a sea-front restaurant and the ground floor has Ark Expo and Noah’s Hall. The first floor is devoted to the Ark Life Education House and the second floor houses the Treasure House. The top floor is Noah’s Resort. The ark is surrounded by facilities including the Ark Garden, Noah’s Adventureland, Noah’s Stadium and Fun Fun Track. The backdrop of green hills, a traditional village and Ma Wan heritage will make the area a new tourist attraction.

The agreement with the government calls for the park to be operated on a commercial basis without government funding. Ma Wan Park will create a fund to hold any surplus from operations for the repair, maintenance and promotion of the Park. Neither the Ma Wan Park Company nor SHKP will profit from developing or operating Ma Wan Park. The Park’s accounts will be strictly monitored.

Previously built arks include one in the Netherlands that could float on water and contained real animals. But the Netherlands ark was about one-fifth the size of the biblical ark. Another ark was built by Greenpeace in 2007 on Turkey’s Mount Ararat that was intended to be a warning of impending disaster from climate change.

Thomas Kwok had previously mixed his business and Christian faith when he set up a church on the 75th floor of the Sun Hung Kai’s Central Plaza office in the 1990s.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Frances Leung, a 57-year-old social worker who has seen a big chunk of her savings evaporate in the markets, was invited to visit the ark before its official opening. She says she drew great inspiration from seeing the animals, and new hope.

"When you go to Disneyland, there's really no message there," says Ms Leung. "But at Noah's Ark, there is such a strong message that life goes on."

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