Advisory body begs chairman to stay

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am


Heritage advisers issued a collective statement yesterday urging their head, Bernard Chan, to stay, insisting that none of them did wrong in the heritage grading process for the former government headquarters in Central.

The statement issued by all 22 members of the Antiquities Advisory Board was issued a day after Chan tendered his resignation as board chairman in face of criticism that he colluded with officials in pushing forward a demolition plan for the former headquarters' west wing.

Chan had said he had made no mistakes and resigned only to protect the board's credibility.

In the statement, the advisers call on Chan to reconsider his decision.

'Mr Bernard Chan has all along been fair, liberal and impartial since he became chairman in 2009 ... It will be a loss to the AAB and to society if he ultimately resigns,' they said.

'The way the board discussed, voted and consulted the public is all in accordance with existing procedures in grading the former government headquarters. No members were under pressure from the government or anyone else.'

Three members have indicated they will also quit in support of Chan.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor offered to retain him.

But Chan said he would stay only until a new chairman was appointed and would refrain from voting when the board met next month to finalise the grading after a one-month public consultation.

Critics say the chairman diminished the board's role by agreeing with Lam, before the board graded the building last Thursday, that she should announce a revised redevelopment plan for the west wing.

They have also attacked Lam for bypassing the heritage process by stating categorically that the west wing would be razed.

A lesser complaint against Chan is that he cast a deciding vote to give a grade II heritage rating for the west wing, after eight members voted for grade I (highest on the three-tier scale) eight voted for grade II and four for grade III.

The board agreed that the compound of the headquarters as a whole, including the east, west and main wings, should be grade I, which may be protected if it is then declared a monument. A grade II building is not safe from demolition.

At Thursday's meeting, a member raised a new piece of historical information about the wing, showing a 1969 news article that recorded that the first indoor 'trendy dance party' was held in there. Such parties were organised by the government after the 1967 riots in an effort to let angry young people vent their energy.

Under Chan's leadership, the board has almost completed the grading of 1,440 historic buildings and sites in the past three years. But the board has yet to deal with dozens of cases in which owners of the buildings have filed objections to the proposed gradings.