Heritage expert set to examine west wing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am


Conservationists are hoping a heritage specialist who flies in this week can help persuade officials not to demolish the west wing of the former government headquarters in Central.

An expert from the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a Paris-based NGO, has agreed to evaluate the heritage value of the west wing on Government Hill, which was built in 1959 and was slated in 2009 to be sold to a developer.

The expert comes at the request of the Government Hill Concern Group, which sought help from the council earlier this year. The council was established in 1964 and is one of the advisers to Unesco's World Heritage Committee.

Katty Law Ngar-ning, a spokeswoman for the concern group, said they submitted an application earlier this year for the council to examine the site and issue an alert to protect Government Hill.

'We had prepared for more than two months the information for the application, trying to provide every detail on Government Hill,' said Law. 'It is great that they decided to send an expert from Australia to visit and evaluate the site.'

Law said Government Hill was an irreplaceable part of Hong Kong's colonial history and was thus part of its identity. The government contends the west wing has less heritage value than the central and east wings.

'The visit of an international heritage expert proves that Government Hill has a remarkable heritage value,' said Law. 'We will try our best ... [to] force the government to reconsider and retract the demolition plan.'

Although the council's heritage alert has no legal bearing, Law believes it can call attention to the need to protect Government Hill.

In 2009, the council issued a heritage alert on the Stockholm City Library in Sweden when a proposal was submitted to demolish the library's annexes and replace them with new buildings. The council also sent a letter to the mayor, and the redevelopment project was put on hold.

A spokeswoman for the Development Bureau said the government had no intention of halting its redevelopment plans for the west wing. The Antiquities Advisory Board will give the site a rating next Thursday.

Law said her group was setting up an online platform to survey public opinion on alternative plans for the site and how to preserve it.