Wrecking ball is ruining HK's soul, academics warn

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 12:00am

Hundreds of old Hong Kong buildings could be knocked down for redevelopment at any time because of the lack of a conservation policy, conservationists warned yesterday.

They urged the government to take immediate action to save old buildings, warning that Hong Kong risks being turned into a 'soul-less and rootless city'.

To back their case, the conservationists highlighted three pre-World War II buildings they said could face demolition because of a lack of safeguards. They are the Jamia Mosque on Shelley Street, the First Church of Christ Scientist on MacDonnell Road and the Stone House on Kotewall Road.

They also said the old British Military Hospital on Borrett Road was in a bad state of repair.

All but the British Military Hospital are privately owned and are not declared monuments. That means they can be knocked down for redevelopment any time.

The group is led by Gordon Ng Ting-leung, chief executive of the Conservancy Association.

Mr Ng said the government should set up a heritage conservation fund to keep the 'treasures' in good condition before they disappear.

'When our Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and his senior officials keep claiming Hong Kong is a world-class city, they should show to the world not only our new development but also our respect for our heritage,' he said.

'It is sad to see our old buildings keep being knocked down or [becoming] dilapidated one by one. Hong Kong will become a city without roots and memories if we do not gear up to protect our heritage.'

Architecture professor Lynne DiStefano, from the University of Hong Kong, said buildings worthy of conservation should be declared monuments or publicly graded to let more people in the community know their historic and social importance.

Dr DiStefano estimated there were hundreds of buildings and landmarks with conservation values across Hong Kong.

She said the government could follow the practice in the US and Canada, where tax relief or subsidies are used as incentives for owners to retain and maintain their buildings.

Mr Ng said the three buildings remained under constant threat, despite the fact that the owners had not filed any relevant redevelopment plans.

According to government records, the private two-storey Stone House on Kotewall Road may be redeveloped into a 10-storey residential building.

Graphic: HERI11GET


Graphic: TALK1GET