Beheading marks our darkest hour

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2006, 12:00am

On December 15, Hongkongers witnessed at first hand the government's lack of vision in creating a true 'world city'. The final act of beheading the Star Ferry clock tower marked Hong Kong's darkest hour in its aspiration to be on a par with true world cities such as Paris, London, New York and Tokyo.

Not only do the local governments of these cities value cultural heritage as a means of adding socio-economic value, they are starting to make us look awfully shortsighted and clueless in our understanding of the benefits that cultural heritage brings.

If we in Hong Kong think that building frigid shopping malls and superficial replicas of demolished ferry piers is a suitable conservation strategy for historic monuments, we have truly lost the plot.

It is time for our government to realise that a common theme among world-class cities is the way they respect, preserve and nurture their distinctive cultural and historical identities, first and foremost.

A mention should be made of the historic centre of Macau, a Unesco world heritage site. It's world heritage status has benefited the city enormously, helping to promote tourism and social continuity.

The determination shown by the protesters in fighting to save the Star Ferry pier and clock tower should surely be a wake-up call to the government to go back to the drawing board on cultural heritage preservation.

Housing chief Michael Suen Ming-yeung and company, please look to other world cities for guidance on how to preserve heritage. In addition, may I suggest you engage in consultation processes that actually involve listening to the people of Hong Kong?

If you will not, be prepared for growing civil unrest.

Just as importantly, be prepared for falling tourist numbers as visitors go elsewhere in search of cultural experiences more rewarding than an overdose of shopping in Asia's 'world city'.

Don't say we didn't warn you.

AMIL KHAN, Mid-Levels

We need Beijing

While it is good to have an opposition to check government abuses, it is rather disturbing that certain benighted members of the pan-democrats still view Beijing as the enemy, as a motion last week calling on the central government not to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs shows ('Autonomy motion suffers Legco defeat', December 21).

Such a myopic and outdated mindset creates mistrust and works against the good of Hong Kong. The cynical might even argue that these people are selling out Hong Kong for personal political gain.

The undeniable fact is that the city's social, economic and political development necessitates co-operation with the mainland. The pan-democrats will have to prove to Hong Kong and Beijing that they have the vision, wisdom and responsibility to work towards the greater good.

It is important to remember that Hong Kong is part of China, while China is not part of Hong Kong. The venerable words of former US president John F Kennedy should serve as a reminder: 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.'

A. CHAN, Tsim Sha Tsui

Blighty, go home

New cut-price airfares to Europe from Hong Kong are all very well, but the other side of the coin is that cheap flights in the other direction encourage the lower levels of British society to come here - rather than go to Blackpool - to get drunk.

I was unlucky enough to sit near two such tourists the other day on the MTR. It would be hard to say which of the pair was the most repulsive. The male of the species, a skinhead, wore an unwashed, once-white T-shirt stretched around his considerable beer belly. His filthy and discoloured jeans were set off by his smelly, thonged feet.

His companion wore cycling shorts stretched so tight around her lower regions that they looked fit to split and revealed rolls of cushion-like fat around her midriff. She wore workmen's boots and a purple baseball hat back to front on her greasy blonde hair.

Unenticing as they looked set against the clean and fashionably dressed commuters of Hong Kong, however, it was their conduct that most revolted.

The woman consumed beer from a large bottle, and the man drank his from a can.

Those who think that the provision of a native English-speaking teacher at their child's school is all that is required to disseminate Oxbridge vowels should have heard these two. They were arguing hammer and tongs. The loud stream of expletives from the woman, in particular, would have made a sailor blush. Although the man had a more limited range (mostly starting with 'f'), what came out of his mouth was equally offensive.

It won't come as any surprise for people to read that they staggered out at Wan Chai, ready for a further intake of cheap booze.

I do hope that these two won't apply to be native English teachers, and that they very soon use the return half of their cheap tickets to go home. Hong Kong can do without western tourists of their quality.

MARY PANG, Kwai Chung




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