West wing's demolition to proceed despite alert
Amy Nip and Joyce Ng
The government will proceed with its plan to demolish the west wing of its former headquarters despite an alert from a world body that advises the United Nations on heritage sites.
The International Scientific Committee on Twentieth Century Heritage (ISC20C) yesterday raised the alert on its website to draw global attention to the fate of the west wing, which it said was an indispensible part of the city's Government Hill.
It was the second warning ISC20C - which advises Unesco - has issued.
Development Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was aware of the alert but had no intention of changing her decision to demolish the building and replace it with an office tower.
She said plans for the site would be announced today.
Along with two other international groups, ISC20C also wrote to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen asking his administration to reconsider the demolition.
ISC20C was established under the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a non-government organisation dedicated to the preservation of monuments.
Its letter said: 'As the last of the three buildings that makes up the CGO complex, the West Wing is arguably the most sophisticated component, reflecting the final evolution of the design concept and architectural detailing for the complex in the building that was to be the community's interface with government.'
The letter, also signed by heritage organisation Docomomo International and the International Union of Architects, added that the demolition would be seen as departing from China's commitment to protect its cultural heritage of all periods.
But Lam said the government had followed international standards, and that they do forbid the demolition of buildings in a historic area.
'The demolition and redevelopment of the west wing, which is of lower value, is not only consistent with the economic aim of increasing office supply in Central, but will also improve the efficiency of the city space and design,' she said.
The development secretary said the plans for the site would give the new building 46 per cent less space than the existing west wing, allowing for more public space.
The Antiquities Advisory Board will meet today to consider heritage gradings for the whole former government headquarters amid controversy over recommendations from a panel of experts that gave different gradings to each of the three buildings on the site while giving the whole site a top-rated grade one.