Government must change plans for west wing to avoid claims of collusion
As a concerned Hong Kong citizen, I have followed closely the public debate over the government's proposal to co-operate with a private developer to develop the west wing of the former central government offices which forms part of Government Hill.
The whole of this hillside comprises not only the former government complex but also other important buildings and grounds, including Government House and gardens, the botanical gardens, the the Bishop's House and gardens, the American consulate, St John's Cathedral and the Court of Final Appeal building.
The low-rise, low-density and green characteristics of this enclave provide a much needed green lung for the Central district of Hong Kong. This special area formerly also used to include the government's Beaconsfield House and its car park at the back of the former Hilton Hotel, but in a private deal without consulting the public the administration sold its two public assets to Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited for the development of the Cheung Kong Center in the mid-1990s.
Government Hill has been the seat of government ever since Britain took over Hong Kong in 1841. There is simply no other site in Hong Kong of greater importance in historical and heritage terms.
The proposed demolition of the west wing for commercial and office development by a private developer does not make sense. As the government certainly does not need the money, what is the justification for such a decision? Does the administration have any particular developer in mind? Is there a hidden agenda that the former central government offices will eventually be converted into another commercial plaza similar to Pacific Place in Queensway?
The central government offices site has always been zoned 'government, institution, community' on the outline zoning plan. If the government has no use for the west wing, it must first offer it to the community. The building is in as good a condition as the main and east wings which the government has decided to retain and renovate. Many community organisations and public institutions can make very good use of this extremely central and convenient building.
If the administration proceeds with its present proposal, it will only have itself to blame if it is once again is accused of collusion with real estate developers.
L. C. Chan, Causeway Bay