Activists get artistic in quest to save west wing from demolition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am


Two dozen people gathered at the gates of the west wing of the former central government offices yesterday dressed as former historic buildings in a quest to stop demolition of the 53-year-old building.

The demonstrators, wearing costumes featuring representations in cardboard of the building and of Queen's Pier and the Star Ferry Clock Tower, which were torn down to make way for the Central-Wan Chai bypss, held up banners asking to protect the 'people's wing'.

Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, a former legislator and senior government officer, attended the small gathering and cut a mock black ribbon, symbolising the closed gates surrounding the government compound.

The west wing was given grade 2 heritage status by the Antiquities Advisory Board last month, which would not stop its demolition to make way for a 32-storey commercial building. The chairman of the board, Bernard Chan, resigned on June 18 amid accusations of collusion with government officials.

'The west wing was built in such a way that people were able to access it easily from the street,' said Wong, who spent 25 years on Government Hill, as the compound is called. 'People would just walk up to pay their bills or taxes and could grab lunch from the public canteen.'

A band, Summer Romance, played Cantonese folk songs, and a few of the conservationists danced in the open space outside the Court of Final Appeal. Meanwhile the antiquities board held a public consultation on its grading of the building.

'History is history,' said Chik Yuk-chum, a 57-year-old retired nurse who wore a mask of former Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Lam, the new chief secretary, said last month that the west wing had lower historical value than the main and east wings of the complex and thus would be torn down.

Katty Law Ngar-ning, spokeswoman for the Government Hill Concern Group, said it did not really make sense for the board to give different heritage gradings to the three wings of the compound.

'Why not turn the building into a public library?' she said. 'If we are not able to keep the whole compound, then the public history of the government of Hong Kong cannot be preserved.'