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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hong Kong tries to save a bit of its storied past
By Patrick L. Smith International Herald Tribune

HONG KONG When Stalin's apparatchiks rewrote history books and airbrushed fallen colleagues out of photos, there was a saying among Soviet citizens: The future is certain, they would jest, it is the past that is not yet clear.

Oddly enough, roughly the same can be said today of this most capitalist of societies. Not quite a decade after the end of British colonial rule and the resumption of Chinese sovereignty, Hong Kong cannot decide what of the past it wants to preserve and what it wants to drop from the picture.

The debate pits preservationists against profit-minded property developers.

At issue now is a complex of government buildings that included Hong Kong's oldest jail and dates from the territory's earliest days as a colony.

Although the last prisoners were released a couple of months ago, no one - not the government, not the property men, not the architects, not the preservationists - knows quite what to do with the place.

It is an awkward moment for a city long dedicated to the newest, tallest, most efficient and most profitable. There is widening concern here over the overall health of a society that has little in the way of collective memory.

"The price for not preserving history is that we will enter the malaise of modernity; there's nothing but 'now,' 'today,'" said Leo Lee Ou-Fan,

a professor at Chinese University. "It's the disease of the present. You get a less coherent society."

Concern for the old, it might be said, is something new in Hong Kong.

During the century and more that this was a port city of transients, full of traders and refugees and home to very few of them, the question of remembering and forgetting never arose. The past always made way for the present; heritage was something people thought about somewhere else.

Now Hong Kong is changing. As nerves have calmed over the resumption of Chinese sovereignty, many of its seven million people consider the territory home and want the sense of rootedness that comes with it.

"For all the years of colonial rule we were very confused about our identity," said Edward Ho, an architect who leads an advisory board that helps the government evaluate potential preservation sites. "We were British but not really, Chinese but not really. This question of establishing our identity has become even more important since the handover in 1997."

Identity may be more important now, but the problem for preservationists is that land values are no less important than they always have been.

The government has not altered a long-standing policy that requires designated heritage sites to be paying propositions. With Covent Garden in London and Boston's Faneuil Hall as models, the intent is to auction off sites to private-sector developers that can turn them into shops, hotels, restaurants or another combination of tourist- attracting facilities.

"We have to balance conservation and economic interests," said Esther Leung, the deputy secretary for home affairs.

In a city dense with glass-and-concrete towers, there are now 80 declared heritage sites.

But the government's policy has brought some of them to peculiar fates by any measure. One Victorian-era police station was saved by the government only to be leased to a supermarket chain.

Official policy proceeded in this fashion until recently. What brought things to a head were plans to recycle a large compound that housed the central police station, the magistracy courts and Victoria Prison, complete with dungeons.

You could call this a monument to colonial efficiency: apprehension, adjudication and incarceration all in one spot. But the two dozen buildings that form the walled quadrangle tell far more than a tale of tropical crime and punishment, which is why the trouble started.

The earliest of the buildings, a cell block, dates from the late 1850s.

Nearby is a police barracks of similar vintage, in full-dress colonial porticos; the magistracy was added in 1914, the police station five years later, and so on until the late 1940s. The compound, in short, is an irreplaceable narrative written in brick, plaster, granite and timber.

"A compound like this is an education in how a city evolved, how people thought and how social values changed," said Alexander Hui Yat- chuen, an architect and a purist in matters of preservation. "For once we have the opportunity to conserve something as a whole, and the whole is where the value lies."

Even a few years ago, Hui's argument would not have earned much more than polite nods. But a routine public consultation led to a cacophony of public protests that stunned all concerned into silence.

There are now no active plans for the site, no fixed guidelines as to how it should be preserved and no developer has tendered for it.

In effect, the territory's past has left it flummoxed.

China, as it often does in Hong Kong affairs, appears to loom in the background. Architects and scholars here say the mainland views buildings like the police station not as architecture but as artifacts of an era it wants Hong Kong to forget about in the name of national pride.

This lends the question of heritage a political tint, these sources say.

"Historical preservation is one expression of civil society's new demand for autonomy," said Leo Lee, the social critic. "Since there is no democracy, it's a proxy for politics."

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
HK's architectural heritage on display
6 June 2006
South China Morning Post

An exhibition of the cartographic drawings of some of Hong Kong's historical buildings opens at the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre today, almost three weeks after it was decided that the Central Market had no preservation value - thus sealing its fate for demolition.

The exhibition, which will run until December 3, comprises cartographic drawings of Hong Kong's historical architecture, many of which are considered to be documents of important historical value.

The drawings and surveys were undertaken by architecture students from various universities in the region, including the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and the University of Hong Kong.

One of the oldest surveys on display features the Tsang Tai-uk hakka village in Sha Tin, which was drawn in 1965.

The exhibition comes at a time when faith in the preservation of Hong Kong's dwindling number of historical buildings is low. But curator Cissy Ho Wing-see insists the drawings are not on display for conservation purposes.

"You can't rely on cartographical drawings alone," she said. "While they're important references when it comes to the historical structure and design, they alone can't help save a building from demolition."

The exhibition will give the public an in-depth look at the composition of older structures of both western and Chinese designs.

The Antiquities Advisory Board decision on May 19 to allow the demolition of the Central Market, built in 1938, was a blow to those who consider heritage to be of great cultural importance.

Of 14 board members, Bernard Lim Wan-fung, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, was one of two who opposed the demolition.

He said the exhibition was a good effort in educating the public about historical buildings, but that it was always preferable to see the real thing.

"You can't replace the buildings themselves, and once they are demolished, all you're left with is a drawing of what once was.

"I do, however, hope that this exhibition encourages people to be more aware of the historical architecture within the city."

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Family tried to save garden years ago They told officials in 1998 tycoon's eden should be preserved
8 July 2006
South China Morning Post

Family members planning to sell the private garden of late tycoon Lee Iu-cheung to a developer told the government eight years ago it was an important cultural heritage site and should be preserved.

In a letter opposing a road-widening project that would encroach on the grounds, the sons and grandchildren of Lee described Dragon Garden as "one of the last remaining treasures" and said that to alter it would "destroy a part of Chinese culture and heritage".

The arguments, put forward by the owners' company, Hongland Investment, in August 1998 mirror those now being advanced by family members and conservationists opposed to the sale.

The letter was written to object to a plan to widen Castle Peak Road, which would have cut into the garden and cause the removal of a fish pond. A footbridge at the garden's main entrance was also planned.

"To alter Dragon Garden or any part of it is to destroy a part of Chinese culture and heritage, preserved by the Lee family for four generations since its birth 50 years ago," the company wrote in a three-page letter.

"Dragon Garden is truly one of the last remaining treasures in Hong Kong which offers us a glimpse into the old Hong Kong and also the cultural heritage derived from China. It only seems fitting that Dragon Garden be preserved as an example that the old and the new can exist side by side."

It also stressed the project would greatly damage the site's fung shui and thus affect the present and future generations of the family.

The objection failed and the work went ahead. But the government promised to compensate the family for the loss of trees by planting new ones nearby.

"It is just so ironic," said Albert Chan Wai-yip, a lawmaker representing New Territories West. "I hope the family members who are selling this pretty place can understand that money does not mean everything. Sometimes the family's reputation is more important."

John Lee Yuen-hong, a grandson of the tycoon and a director of Hongland Investment who initiated the $130 million sale, was not available for comment last night.

The sale of the 8 hectare garden, first built in 1948, now looks set to be completed on Monday despite opposition from some family members.

Cynthia Lee Hong-yee, a granddaughter who launched the public appeal early this week, said they were still lobbying the family members to cancel the deal. "We will not give up until the last minute."

Lister Cheung Lai-ping, chief executive of the Conservancy Association, which is campaigning to save the garden, said the government should have done something to conserve the site when it received the letter.

"The government missed a golden chance to preserve this place when the family all agreed the garden was a cultural heritage," she said.

"But it is still not too late if the government can intervene and stop the sale."

A senior home affairs official reiterated that the government would not intervene in the sale.

"The government cannot buy back a private heritage without having a policy or mechanism on conservation. The consequences will be serious - many owners of heritage sites will come to the government and ask for money," the official said.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Legacy in limbo
The complex issues surrounding heritage buildings in Hong Kong mean many historic structures are left vacant.
Critics accuse the government of dragging its feet over formulating policy

14 July 2006
South China Morning Post

Shamshuipo is hardly the most well-heeled district in Hong Kong, but in the centre of this relatively impoverished area sits a classic four-storey building. Passersby often wonder about the story behind this newly refurbished structure on the corner of Lai Chi Kok and Tong Mi roads - and why it remains empty.

Lui Seng Chun, one of Hong Kong's oldest Chinese tenement buildings and the former home of Lui Leung, a Kowloon Motor Bus founder, was built in 1931 by local architect W.H. Bourne, combining the best of east and west in its design. The ground floor used to house Lui's Chinese medicine shop, while he and his family lived on the upper floors. His descendants were still living there as recently as the 1980s.

The Lui family donated the site to the government in October 2003 and the historic building has since become a structure highlighting the problems concerning conservation of building heritage in Hong Kong.

The building has been left vacant since restoration works were completed last summer. The Antiquities and Monuments Office said a consultancy study was being conducted on the best use for the historic shop-house, with a consultation exercise to be held later. A Chinese herbal tea company has proposed turning the place into an exhibition centre displaying the city's oldest brands, but the plan is still being studied by the authorities. All this means the block will be empty for at least a few more months.

"It's not easy to find a solution," said a senior home affairs official, who declined to be named. "We had considered converting it into an elderly home but the staircase is just too steep for seniors. Making it a shopping place is not really feasible because it's located in a low-income district."

Albert Lai Kwong-tat, a director of the Conservancy Association, said the problems with heritage conservation in Hong Kong were so bad that "while many historic buildings are knocked down for redevelopments, those saved from demolition are just left vacant".

The uncertainty surrounding potential heritage sites in Hong Kong was drawn into focus by the recent controversy over Dragon Garden, an eight-hectare waterfront garden on Castle Peak Road, built in 1948 and said to be one of the largest and most beautiful private gardens in Hong Kong.

Designed by renowned architect Chu Pin, who was involved in the restoration of the Forbidden City in Beijing, the garden is covered with hundreds of species of trees and flowers, as well as ponds, footpaths, bridges and architecture of the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. The garden was saved at the eleventh hour from being sold to a developer earlier this week.

There are many historic buildings standing empty in the city. The police station on High Street, built in 1935, has not been used since Hong Kong Island's crime unit moved out of the premises last winter. The site is now managed by the Lands Department, but no plan has yet been formulated on how to fill the space.

Also empty is the North Kowloon Magistracy in Shamshuipo. Built in the 1960s, it has not been used for almost two years after a court services consolidation exercise. Another court house, the Western Magistracy, is filled but is now used as offices of the Water Supplies Department, since only a few departments expressed interest in the 1950s structure. And in the ultimate comedown, the old Stanley Police Station, built in 1859, has been rented out by the government as a supermarket.

The plan to transform the historic Central Police Station compound into a new entertainment and retail hub is still on hold after more than two years of debate and argument between the government and conservationists.

The compound consists of the former Central Police Station, magistrates' court and Victoria Prison. In April 2003, the site was earmarked for tourism-related restoration and development, with 17 of the 27 buildings in the complex to be preserved. But public pressure to conserve the entire compound forced the government to postpone tendering, scheduled in 2004, for its redevelopment and launch a community consultation. So far, the plan is still under review and the government has not come up with a new timetable.

It seems that more historic buildings will be left idle if nothing is done. A police source said the force would vacate the Yau Ma Tei and Shamshuipo police stations in the next few years since the structures could no longer cope with the need for technology and fittings.

Vincent Ng Wing-shun, vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, was not surprised by the situation. "It should be easy to fill the space. There are many companies and non-government organisations thatare keen to move into these special structures. They will be hot potatoes if they're released to the public," he said.

"But putting new wine into an old bottle is not that easy. There are a lot of problems. In most cases, these old blocks would not fit with today's buildings regulations. For example, the staircases are too narrow, the railings are not tall enough, and there are not enough fire exits.

"So turning these buildings into restaurants or shops means you have to make a lot of alterations, but this may damage the building's architectural or historical value. You can make these places into museums, but there are too many museums and not that many exhibits in town."

But Mr Lai, from the Conservancy Association, said the key problem was the lack of heritage policy in Hong Kong. "There were cases where heritage sites were conserved and put to good use," he said, citing the old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital in Western District that was converted into a community centre and the Kom Tong Hall in Central, which will become the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum next year.

"The former Marine Police Headquarters is also being transformed into a hotel, even though many trees there have been chopped during the alterations," Mr Lai said.

"But these projects are piecemeal and all done by the government. So, every time a heritage site is put to some adaptive use, there are debates and controversy because the community is not much involved in the decision-making process. Officials are then exhausted and hesitate to do much even if people donate a heritage structure to the government."

Mr Lai said a new trust fund, managed by the community but supported by the government, was needed to take up the job. "Such a body can conserve and maintain these buildings and put them into adaptive uses under a transparent consultation process. This can minimise arguments and debates and reduce the government's workload," he said. "Of course, this requires a new heritage policy and mechanism, and more importantly, determination from the government to do something."

The government, meanwhile, has been studying the issue for a long time. The Home Affairs Bureau issued a consultation document in February 2004, which covered a wide range of issues from how to preserve government and private heritage sites, to how to maintain these structures and put them to good use. But no policy has yet been formulated. The bureau told lawmakers a couple of months ago that the issue was so complicated that more time was needed.

"[Policy making] is easier said than done," said the senior home affairs official. "Many heritage sites are owned by a government property agency or the Lands Department, which is not under our bureau, and they don't have a mandate to conserve them.

"Our land policy is also very traditional and old-fashioned. A lot of people have suggested a land exchange mechanism as a way to preserve private heritage, but this is pretty difficult. And if you put a site to a particular use, officials from the treasury will ask, quite rightly, whether that is value for money.

"So, is the public ready to pay a lot of funds to conserve old buildings? It will take some time before any policy is formulated, simply because many of the issues involve other departments."

But Lee Ho-yin, programme director of the architectural conservation programme at the University of Hong Kong, said the government must speed up its work.

"The authorities should now seize the opportunity brought by the Dragon Garden in Sham Tseng, now saved by some family members with a trust fund that's just been set up. They should at least get them some support to maintain this beautiful landscape, and then push the new policy forward," he said.

"People's awareness has been raised a lot in the past few years after repeated campaigns to save structures from demolition. We should not see these old structures like antiquities just for display, we have to put them to good use."

9,950 Posts
View from the Botanical Garden, looking north to Kowloon. On the waterfront, the building with the rotunda is the Old Supreme Court, begun about 1906 and completed 1911 or 1912. Picture is of Central District from 1912

Victoria Peak, about 1912

Hong Kong Botanical Garden 1912

This house stood in the district of Tsim Cha Tsui, Kowloon, on Chatham Road S., between Prat Ave. and Cameron Rd. View is north, with the Gun Club Barracks in the distance.


125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Heritage body out to stop the greed
Leslie Kwoh
Hong Kong Standard
Saturday, July 22, 2006

Conservationists have called on the government to set up an independent statutory body to oversee heritage preservation, in line with the community's growing desire to see such assets "returned to the people."

Heritage Hong Kong, a new concern group, said it is working on a proposal to establish a conservation policy and statutory foundation to rescue from commercial development sites such as the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison compound.

"It is not the government's right to demolish or redevelop heritage sites, nor should the government profit from these sites," said founder and property surveyor Margaret Brooke. "We need to stop the greed."

Currently, conservation rests in the hands of the Antiquities and Monuments Office.

But Brooke said the government's tendency to see heritage as secondary to commercial revenue necessitates the creation of an authority that can "draw the line.

"We can't have the people saying one thing, and the government doing another.

"By the time most countries reach our level of sophistication, they've established a conservation policy."

England's National Trust, for instance, is an independent charity with the unique statutory power to declare land inalienable. It has acquired more than 248,000 hectares of countryside, 1,126 kilometers of coastline and more than 200 historical monuments.

Conservancy Association director Albert Lai Kwong-tat said such a trust is needed to reduce the government's workload and involve the community in decision-making. It would ideally be managed by the community but supported by the government, and abide by an overarching heritage policy. This would put an end to the government's "piecemeal" approach and save a lot of debate and controversy.

Brooke said she hopes Heritage Hong Kong can grow to play a similar role.

In cases like the police station, a charity would propose to rent the site and cover all its maintenance fees because "the bottom line is the government does not want to deal with the maintenance costs for that site, but it also can't demolish it," she said.

Plans to transform the site into a commercial and retail center have been on hold since 2003, when the government revealed it intended to set aside 17 of the 27 buildings for preservation. Ensuing public pressure to preserve the entire site forced officials to postpone the tendering process.

The debate continues, with Heritage Hong Kong last month submitting to the Town Planning Board a zoning amendment to prevent the site from being transformed into a haven for fast-food shops and convenience stores.

The board currently proposes all eating establishments be regrouped into an "always-permitted" category. This means firms requiring the board's approval - like McDonald's, KFC and 7-Eleven - will all be permitted without undergoing consultation. It is part of a territory- wide "streamlining" of the zoning process that began in 2003, according to district planning officer Christine Tse Kin-chin.

While admitting it would effectively allow for fast-food shops at the historical complex, she said: "It's happened in many other zoning plans as well."

As a rule, the Planning Department consults the antiquities office on all "old buildings," defined as pre-1960s, she said.

Beyond that, details such as the number, type and layout of eating establishments at a site would be up to the tenderers and the Tourism Commission, not the Planning Department.

Brooke said with so many locals rallying to preserve the site, the government may be hard-pressed to find tenderers. "The more controversial a project becomes, the less likely developers are to take it on. They don't want to upset their shareholders," she said.

"Maybe 10 years ago people would have remained silent. But now young people are returning from living overseas and they're seeing how Hong Kong compares with other places that are preserving their heritage. Hong Kong's not just a big business center anymore, it's a home."

The board is expected to return its decision on the amendment next month. The group plans to submit its proposal for a statutory authority to the Legislative Council by year-end.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Historic buildings left empty for lack of ideas
Ng Kang-chung
6 October 2006
South China Morning Post

Two historic buildings in Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei have been left empty because officials have failed to decide what to do with the sites despite a series of studies.

Lui Seng Chun building in Mong Kok, one of the oldest tenement buildings in the city, has been vacant for three years, while the Yau Ma Tei Theatre has been since its closure eight years ago. Both have been classified historical buildings and are under the management of the Antiquities and Monuments Office.

At yesterday's meeting of Yau Tsim Mong District Council's community building committee, members were told there was no plan for the cinema. But officials promised some ideas could be released for public consultation on what to do with the Lui Seng Chun building by the end of the year.

Antiquities and Monuments Office senior manager Richie Lam Kok-sing said: "A consultancy report is being finalised. It should be ready by December and then we shall seek the views of the public on what its best use should be."

Committee member and council chairman Henry Chan Man-yu accused the government of dragging its feet.

"I do not understand why it is so difficult to think of a use. If you do not know, ask the public, ask the local residents, but not the consultants. You are wasting a good historic site by leaving it idle," he said.

Built in 1931, Lui Seng Chun is the former home of Lui Leung, a founder of Kowloon Motor Bus. The ground floor housed the Luis' Chinese medicine shop, while the family lived upstairs until the 1980s.

Moving out and leaving the block vacant for two decades, the family donated the site to the government in 2003. Nothing had been done since except some maintenance work, despite the studies.

Committee member David Lau Chi-wing asked Mr Lam what the office had done with the Yau Ma Tei Theatre over the past eight years. "What we now see is a block in a horrible white colour. The interior condition is as poor as before. Is this what your office meant by maintaining historic blocks?"

Mr Lam said the government wanted a long-term plan for use of the cinema and thinking up long-term plans would take time.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
New York model call on heritage
Leslie Kwoh
Hong Kong Standard
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Local heritage conservationists want a New York-style buildings heritage body, saying our present system favors economic benefit over preservation.
"For the past three or four decades we have experienced rapid development, but the price we have paid is we are losing our historical buildings," Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah- kit said. "We really need what they have in New York City."

In a videoconference call with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Thursday, Leong appealed to US officials for help in saving Hong Kong's historic buildings. The conference comes at a time when the government is preparing to demolish the famous Star Ferry clock tower and allow fast-food shops to be set up in the Central Police Station.

A flurry of urban renewal projects planned for Kwun Tong and Wan Chai are also under fire for placing development over heritage objectives.

"We're looking at historical districts in a totally different light than [New York's], where our mentality is: `Send in the bulldozers, build newer buildings'," said Leong, who is also an Urban Renewal Authority member.

During the conference, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission chairman Robert Tierney said the body has preserved nearly 23,000 sites since its establishment in 1965 - including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station. By contrast, Hong Kong's Antiquities and Monuments Office has declared 80 landmarks.

The New York commission considers for preservation all buildings over 30 years old, whereas Hong Kong generally does not consider a building until it is 60 or 65. Thus the Star Ferry Clock Tower, now 49 years old, does not qualify as "historical."

A recent study commissioned from an independent consultant found that historical buildings actually add value to nearby properties because people trust that the "look and feel" of the neighborhood will be preserved.

As for pressure from landowners, Tierney admitted there was a good deal, but said the independent nature of the commission strengthened it. Over 99 percent of the New York landmarks are private property, he said, but land owners are given options to transfer development rights elsewhere.

Those still unwilling to comply with a commission decision face a losing battle because the owner's consent is not required by law.

"In regulating private property, every decision has its benefits and burdens. But government can't function if everyone is entitled to maximum economic benefit," commission general counsel Mark Silberman said.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ancestral hall scoops UN conservation award
Restoration a model for other heritage work, says minister

6 December 2006
South China Morning Post

A restored 168-year-old ancestral hall in Sheung Shui has become one of the nine winners worldwide of this year's UN culture heritage conservation awards.

The Qing dynasty-styled Liu Ying Lung Study Hall, built in 1838 at Po Sheung village, won an honourable mention for its excellent restoration work.

A total of 36 projects from 11 countries in the region had bid for the 2006 Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

Hong Kong's St Andrew's Church won an award of merit.

Unesco regional cultural adviser Richard Engelhardt said that the jury of the awards had described the study hall as "a valuable learning experience about architecture restoration as well as the community's heritage roots".

"The study hall, completed with conserved murals and vernacular architectural details, now serves as a fitting backdrop for reviving communal social functions and rituals, which recognised the project's merit," he said.

The building was originally used for worshipping ancestors of the Liu clan in the New Territories.

It later served as a meeting place and an educational institution to teach Chinese classics to local children before being turned into a kindergarten in the 1980s, which resulted in damage to the building.

In 2003, villagers decided to restore it as part of the Tai Ping Ching Chiu festival, held once every 60 years.

At a cost of about HK$5 million, the restorers replaced termite-damaged wood and eroded bricks, and removed several coats of paint that had disguised the hall's original appearance.

Antiquity protection experts from Hong Kong and Guangdong were involved in the work.

Liu Fu-sau, a member of the village restoration committee, said: "Every one of us has contributed to this project. To revive the hall's original look, we collected over 10,000 old green bricks in the area in order to replace the damaged ones.

"We believe the brand new hall will definitely enhance our community spirit of the Liu clan."

Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping, who attended the awards ceremony, said the joint efforts of residents and the government could serve as a model for future conservation work in the city.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Council runs jail tours in bid to save historic Central complex
6 December 2006
South China Morning Post

Nine thousand people will get a glimpse of life behind bars over three weekends next month as part of a campaign to save the historic Central Police Station complex from commercial redevelopment.

Trained guides will lead visitors on tours of the 150-year-old Victoria Prison, organised by the Central and Western District Council, explaining daily prison life and demonstrating prisoners' tasks.

Democratic Party district councillor Kam Nai-wai said it was hoped the open days would boost the public's knowledge of and respect for the city's heritage, and show the government that turning the heritage site into a commercial project was not the only solution.

The cluster of buildings on the Hollywood Road site - the prison, the Central Police Station and the Central Magistracy - have been declared monuments, which protects them from demolition.

It had been planned to call for tenders to redevelop the site commercially, but protests forced the government to reopen the consultation. No decision has been made.

"We hope the public will join us to persuade the government none of the buildings should be demolished," Mr Kam said.

Henderson Land general manager for sales Tony Tse Wai-chuen said: "Development doesn't equal demolition. The most important thing is the historic buildings will have economic value. Preservation shouldn't rely on public coffers."

Henderson Land and Town Gas put up HK$100,000 to sponsor the open days.

The prison will be open on January 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21. Tickets are available at or by phone at 3128 8288. Tickets are HK$25 but Central and Western District students can buy tickets for HK$20 at the Caritas Centre.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
LCQ14: Rating of historical buildings
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Choy So-yuk and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho, in the Legislative Council today (December 6):


It has been reported that buildings must be at least 50 years old in order to be considered for classification as historical buildings. As it has only been 48 years since the opening of the Star Ferry Pier in Central in 1958, the Pier is not eligible to be classified as a historical building. However, some members of the public, after looking up the relevant information, have pointed out that in fact the Pier officially opened in 1957. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the minimum years of history required for a building to be considered for classification as a historical building; whether the commencement or completion date of the works concerned or the opening date of the building is used as the basis for calculating its years of history, and whether such calculation method is prescribed in any internal guidelines of the Government; if so, of the details and whether the relevant documents may be made public; if such calculation method is not prescribed in any guidelines, the reasons for that;

(b) whether it knows the respective commencement and completion dates of the works for the eastern and western arms of the Star Ferry Pier in Central, and their opening dates; and

(c) whether it will re-consider classifying the Star Ferry Pier in Central as a historical building so that it will be protected by the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Cap. 53); if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

(a) Pursuant to Section 3 of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Cap. 53), the Antiquities Authority may, after consultation with the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) and with the approval of the Chief Executive, by notice in the Gazette, declare any place, building, site or structure, which the Authority considers to be of public interest by reason of its historical, archaeological or palaeontological significance to be a monument. The minimum years of history of a building is not a statutory requirement for declaration as a monument under the Ordinance.

The AAB has adopted a grading system for assessing the heritage value of historical buildings. The grading criteria comprises a series of factors including the historical significance and architectural merits of the building, and its association with important event(s) and person(s), as well as its social value. The Board will, on the basis of these criteria, assess whether a building qualifies to be a declared monument and may recommend so to the Government. As for the other historical buildings which are not yet qualified to be declared monuments, the Board would rate their heritage values according to the following grading system -

Grade I buildings are those of outstanding merit, which every effort should be made to preserve if possible;
Grade II buildings are those of special merit; efforts should be made to selectively preserve; and
Grade III buildings are those of some merit, but not yet qualified for consideration as monuments. These are to be recorded and used as a pool for future selection.

The grading system, which has no statutory authority, serves as general heritage assessment guidelines for the Board and the Government.

(b) Construction of the Star Ferry Pier in Central commenced in October 1955 and was completed in March 1957. The pier was opened in December 1957.

(c) The Government conducted a built heritage impact assessment for the Central Reclamation Phase III (CRIII) in 2001. Having assessed the impact of the CRIII project on the Star Ferry Pier, the report recommended to reprovision the Star Ferry Pier at the new Central Ferry Piers. The Star Ferry Pier is neither a declared monument nor a graded historical building on the basis of its heritage value. As such, it would not be preserved in-situ. In March 2002, the AAB deliberated on the recommendation of the assessment report and had no objection to the reprovisioning arrangement. Against this background, we would not re-consider declaring the Star Ferry Pier as a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

We understand that there are views in the community that the Star Ferry Pier should be preserved so as to preserve its collective memory. In the context of the Central Reclamation Urban Design Study undertaken by the Planning Department, the Government would consider, from an urban planning perspective, how to incorporate the special features of the Star Ferry Pier in the design of the new Central harbourfront. In addition, the major features of the Star Ferry Pier have been recorded and stored as 3D images through an advanced laser scanning technology by the Civil Engineering and Development Department. The Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO), together with other relevant government departments, will be taking photographic record on the structural features of the Pier. AMO is also exploring whether it is feasible to preserve some of the historical items of the Pier, so that these items may be considered for display in future.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
South China Morning Post
December 8, 2006 Friday
Blue House families in final fight to stay

Residents of the historic Blue House in Wan Chai are fighting a last-ditch battle for the right to stay in their homes.

Together with social workers, they mounted a protest yesterday in front of the building on Stone Nullah Lane against the government's redevelopment plan for the area, proposed earlier this year.

"People are the real spirit of this old area," said Laurence Lam Kwok-wai, a senior officer of social welfare group St James' Settlement. "The district will be turned into a soulless place if the government denies their right to stay."

About 30 families live in the Blue House. The government has offered to relocate them to public estates.

"As far as we know, at least one third of the families don't want to move out," Mr Lam said.

The 80-year-old Blue House is one of the last surviving balconied tenements and is listed as a grade-one historical building by the Antiquities Advisory Board.

The government is proposing that the four-storey structure, and the adjacent Yellow House, be refurbished and the nearby Orange House demolished. The Blue House would house a museum of tea and Chinese medicine.

The proposal by the Urban Renewal Authority and the Housing Society will be discussed today by the Town Planning Board.

So Leung, 77, has lived with his wife in the Blue House for three years to be close to his daughter.

"We are too old to be able to adapt to a new place," he said. "The reason that I moved into this flat is because it is near my daughter's home. What will I do if they arrange to have me live in a public house far away?"

A hospital - the first in Wan Chai to provide Chinese medicine to residents - occupied the site of the Blue House in the 19th century. The neighbourhood has a history of involvement in the tea trade.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Pier battle throws light on landmarks
Hong Kong Standard
Jonathan Cheng
Monday, December 18, 2006

The clock tower may have come down, but preservationists continued to fire shots at the government for a heritage policy whose callousness, they say, was fully exposed by the weekend's destruction of the old Star Ferry pier in Central.

A day after a construction team dismantled the 49-year-old tower and loaded it on to a barge, Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat snapped at Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam- kuen, calling the administration "too numb to recognize the values of memories, history and culture."

"Can you not see the apparent consensus by the people to preserve our common memories, our history and our culture?" Lee said Sunday on Radio Television Hong Kong, addressing his question directly to Tsang.

Alan Leong Kah-kit, who is challenging Tsang in March's chief executive election, also criticized the government for destroying the pier and for putting greater value on money than on responding to public sentiment.

The Star Ferry pier saga has been brewing for months, but only began making headlines after preservationists took their protests in a more aggressive direction last week.

For days, television screens were dominated by images of protesters storming the ferry pier site, waving banners from the top of a construction vehicle and being hauled off by police.

Sunday provided plenty of evidence that anger has begun spilling over into other causes, with legislators and district council members seizing the public mood and drawing attention to other landmarks they say are worthy of protecting.

Kam Nai-wai, a district council member in Central and Western District, said the Star Ferry episode had taught Hong Kong "important lessons" about fighting the demolition of the city's historic landmarks.

Kam plans to take the fight to one section of Victoria Prison, Hong Kong's first jail. While most of the prison, located in the pricey Mid-Levels area, dates back 160 years and has been designated for preservation, one section of the prison - the F building, built in 1931 - is slated for destruction by property developers, since it was deemed to lack historical value.

Kam said his district council had already passed a motion to preserve the building, but claims the government has ignored those petitions.

And then there is a looming fight over an old police station and jade market in Yau Ma Tei that is being threatened by the planned Central Kowloon Route, which will come up for debate tomorrow at the Legislative Council's public works subcommittee of the Finance Committee.

Some legislators have warned government officials not to repeat the Star Ferry mistake by proceeding without providing full transparency and a chance for citizens to have a say in the fate of those buildings.

There is also the possibility of a fight over the Star Ferry's neighboring Queen's Pier, which received Queen Elizabeth II during her visits to Hong Kong. That site is set to be demolished to make way for the same highway that the Star Ferry pier has been cleared for.

Though a number of other city sites were discussed Sunday, the focus for the time being was still centered on the Star Ferry pier battle.

Lee, the Democratic Party lawmaker, interpreted the whole fiasco as a product of an arrogant administration that ignored public opinion.

"It is time the government came down off its high horse and be with the people," Lee said. "We, the people of Hong Kong, do not want the demolition of our clock tower in the Central Star Ferry pier. The clock tower is our history, our culture, and our memories."

Deputy Director of Planning Ophelia Wong Yuen-sheung went on RTHK's City Forum to defend the destruction of the old clock tower, saying the government had given the decision a sufficient consultation period.

Wong also pledged to preserve the character of the tower in the new harborfront park that planners are developing.

Speaking on the same program, Patrick Lau Sau-shing, who represents architects, surveyors and planners in Legco, admitted there was room for improvement in the administration's handling of the Star Ferry fiasco.

He called on the government to preserve traditional culture and help citizens better understand the city planning process in Hong Kong.

Albert Lai Kwong-tak, chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development, said the decision to demolish the pier was purely "political" - that it had nothing to do with technical or planning difficulties.

Hunger strikers at the Star Ferry site, meanwhile, said they were incensed by the possibility that the tower's remains may be used for reclaiming more of the harbor, as some reports claim.

Wong Ho-yin, one of the protesters, demanded an apology from the government, accusing officials of ignoring public sentiment and rejecting requests to redevelop the ferry pier in a "democratic" manner.

Wong and his fellow protesters vowed to finish their hunger strike at 2am today - a 49-hour strike to match the clock tower's 49-year history.

They marched Sunday evening from the ferry site to SAR government headquarters in Central, and demanded to see the chief executive. Police were on hand to keep an eye on the estimated 200 marchers.

125,316 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Heritage trust planned to protect historic sites
Proposal part of review that could see overloaded policy bureaus divided

2 January 2007
South China Morning Post

The government is considering setting up a heritage trust to help preserve key cultural sites, in response to heightened public concern about historic buildings following the demolition of the Star Ferry terminal, government sources say.

They say establishing the trust would be considered as part of a review of the government's entire bureaucracy during Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's next term of office, which is expected to start in July.

The existing set-up of 13 policy bureaus, introduced by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, has been criticised for imposing a heavy workload on some policy secretaries, including the secretary for home affairs.

The review would focus on two bureaus which are considered to have a particularly heavy workload - the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau (ETWB) and the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau (HWFB), the sources said. The ETWB would have its portfolio divided between two bureaus, one on environmental policy and the other on transport and public works. The HWFB would be divided into a bureau covering health and food-related issues, and another on welfare, labour and poverty issues.

As for the Home Affairs Bureau, the sources said the government favoured setting up a trust to handle heritage sites. Apart from relieving the bureau of this burden, the trust, as a non-government body, would have greater flexibility in dealing with heritage issues.

"Setting up a heritage trust would make way for more responsiveness towards public concerns over the preservation of heritage buildings," said one of the sources.

At present, the bureau covers a wide array of policy areas ranging from discrimination to cultural development, district affairs to youth development and religious affairs.

"Areas like the racial discrimination, equal opportunities, protection of personal data, and so on will likely be carried out by another bureau," a government source said.

The source added that these responsibilities might be picked up by the Constitutional Affairs Bureau, which is responsible for the Legislative Council, district councils and the chief executive elections.

Public concerns about protecting heritage landmarks were heightened by the demolition of the former Star Ferry pier in Central last month, when protesters occupied the site. The protest prompted Mr Tsang to make a commitment, in an RTHK programme, to review heritage conservation policy.

Commenting on the proposals, Ada Wong Ying-kay, chairwoman of the Institute of Contemporary Culture, said it would be better to empower an existing advisory body, like the Antiquities Advisory Board, than create a new trust.

4,498 Posts
I just glanced throught the list quick. It's interesting to see how many structures are inside the country parks, former barracks, temples and no man islands. There aren't much in the urban areas and most of them are privately owned. I doubt those private buildings will be protected unless the government purchase the buildings from the owner a whole lot of money.

Wasn't Hwa Par Mansion in Tai Hang taken down already?? Why is it still up on the list??

84 Posts
so does the list include all declared monuments and historical buildings?I can't find Sam Tung Uk Museum in Tsuen Wan on the list.
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