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Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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Lifelong owner of Lethbridge Chinatown buildings says he was “forced” to sell

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LETHBRIDGE, AB – It’s an emotional day for life-long Lethbridge resident Albert Leong who, at 80 years old, has bid farewell to the Bow On Tong.

The two story brick building along 2 ave south has been in Leong’s family for more than a century and was at the heart of a once thriving Chinatown here in the city.

Leong was born in the Bow On Tong and had lived his entire life there up until 2013 when it was deemed unsafe for habitation.

At that time he moved into an apartment a block away.

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He says “I’ve been out eight years and I don’t know if I’m going to live another eight years. What are my chances of moving back in when I don’t have any money to fix it? So my only option is, I have to walk away.”

Holding placards with words of support, friends and family gathered in front of the building Wednesday morning as Leong turned over the keys.

He told supporters he has a heavy heart as he says goodbye to the building he lived in and worked in for so many decades, saying “it’s so sad that Chinatowns are disappearing in so many cities.”

“Some have called me the last man in Chinatown and now even I have been forced to leave.”

Leong also sold the Manie Opera House building next door to the Bow On Tong – both of which were given Provincial Historic Resource designation in 2019.

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Tai Sing Wing Co. was built in 1919 as a grocery store and lodging house and became the Bow On Tong Co. Apothecary in 1926. Lethbridge’s Wing Wah Chong Co., also known as the Manie Opera Society Building, was occupied by a number of Chinese-Albertan businesses while the basement was also used as residences for Chinese immigrants.

Leong doesn’t know what the new owner has planned for the properties, but their Provincial Historic Resource designation protects them from demolition or any changes to their historic character.

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Tina Karst

A Lethbridge College alumnus, Tina moved back to the community two years after convocation, in September 2007, to become a member of the CJOC News Team. She started as a weekend reporter/anchor and now serves as Associate News Director. When Tina’s not tracking down local news, she’s either busy at home with Jordan and their two kids or creating custom macrame pieces for a growing list of clients.

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