Donald Tsang

Intimations of paradise lost in a victory for vandalism

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am

In this period of peace on Earth and goodwill to all men, it is customary to recommend books to read over the holidays. On Tuesday, Antiquities Advisory Board chairman Edward Ho Sing-tin defended the highly unpopular decision to demolish the Star Ferry pier - and destroy with it another treasured piece of our historic harbourfront. On Wednesday, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen turned a deaf ear to last-minute protests, insisting that nothing can now stop the shopping mall and highway planned for the site.

May I suggest to Mr Ho and Mr Tsang that they find food for thought in reading Book One of John Milton's Paradise Lost. As they gaze out over the harbour and contemplate the reclamation work, they may be struck by Milton's description of the construction 'crew [that] opened into the hill a spacious wound and digged out ribs of gold' (lines 658-660). As they envision the mall and highway that will soon materialise, they may see a parallel in Milton's account of 'a fabric huge [that] rose ... built like a temple and Doric pillars overlaid with golden architrave' (lines 710-715). In these lines Milton is depicting 'the incessant toil' required to build the fair and mighty palaces of hell. The chief architect is Mammon.

MAUREEN SABINE, Department of Humanities, University of Hong Kong

I refer to your story 'Tsang vows pier demolition to go ahead' (December 14), and the photo of a young protester being dragged away from the Star Ferry pier - as a police officer films the event. There is something sinister about an autocratic leader answerable only to Beijing taking unstoppable action to destroy what little remains of our heritage. Against such impossible odds, the venting of outrage ended in an inevitable stand at the barricades - with the last young diehards carried off kicking and screaming. Efforts to save the Star Ferry clock tower were always quixotic; the last remnants of outrage at a greater act of destruction: the desecration of a prominent swathe of Victoria Harbour, a Hong Kong icon in the heart of the city. It's all part of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's 'cover it all with cement' beautification project linking rampant reclamation in Central with his totalitarian plan for the new government offices at Tamar and a highway - another focus of vehement public protest. Mr Tsang has won a victory for vandalism. History will score his tenure with a C minus: concrete, coughing, cars and carcinogens.


I am totally in favour of demolishing the Star Ferry pier. My family moved here in 1961, when I was six, and in my childhood I used to cross the harbour almost every day. I looked upon the clock tower as a symbol of the backwardness and privation of Hong Kong - in that a vital transport link between the island and Kowloon (there was no MTR at the time), owned by an obviously large and wealthy corporation, could not afford a more imposing structure. It was so tiny and spartan, it was a farce to call it a tower.

I am delighted we can finally get rid of it and, hopefully, replace it with something more in keeping of Hong Kong's true status, which - whatever your views might be - is definitely no longer a poor backwater.

SUNG NEE, Central