Talk back

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2007, 12:00am

Q What do you think of the redevelopment plan for Peel and Graham streets?

The proposed redevelopment of the Graham and Peel streets area is cultural vandalism, and also shows yet again the cynical shabbiness with which the government treats us, the citizens.

Frankly, there are few parts of Hong Kong that have a truly distinctive and interesting character, yet the government seems determined to destroy those that remain, such as Graham and Peel streets, in favour of sanitised Ye Olde Kitsch.

Not content with shelling out millions to lure Disneyland, the government wants to turn the rest of Hong Kong into Disneyfied phoniness too.

According to media reports, the government's initiation of 'consultation' was, as so often, so low-key that hardly anyone knew about it until the day before it ended. What's more, it seems that even in the internet age, the only way people can consult the plans and proposals is by making a special trip to Jaffe Road during office hours.

Ye gods! Why do I get the impression that the government would like as few people as possible to find out about its plans and give their views? Possibly because that is the truth?

Let's scrap this kind of 'consultation' in favour of something more real, with the government crawling into the 21st century and putting its plans prominently and accessibly online.

This redevelopment should be stopped. There is no need for skyscrapers on Graham Street - we have plenty elsewhere. So what if it costs a billion or two to restore the area with sensitivity, keeping the appearance similar to the present?

We all know the government has money coming out of its ears, plus HK$365 billion and rising in the exchange fund! How about spending some on something that matters? If these plans are not changed, all we will be able to do is echo Philip Larkin: 'Our children will not know it's a different country. All we can hope to leave them now is money.'

Peter Cave, Pok Fu Lam

It is obvious that the only rationale behind the Urban Renewal Authority's plan is the enhancement of business profitability and property values.

The proposed projects, like building replicas of pre-war tong lau (walk-ups) and the facade of the old grocery store, is totally useless either for conserving the city's heritage or increasing the historic and cultural value of the community.

Graham, Peel and Gage streets are some of the oldest streets developed since 1850, filled with the oldest local open-air markets in Hong Kong. The intrusion of high-rise commercial blocks would definitely erode its original setting and historic environment.

Putting ourselves in visitors' shoes, I would prefer to see an authentic and live streetscape rather than reconstructed 'old charms' like the unsympathetic facade in Li Chit Street, Wan Chai. It looks doubtful whether the plan can be successfully marketed as a tourist attraction.

Meanwhile, the authority must widely consult the local residents and make clear their objectives before the plan proceeds.

Philip Chan, Shek Kip Mei

On other matters...

I am writing in response to Dr Eric Lai's column on the horrors of bear bile farming (Urban Jungle, February 23).

Animals Asia Foundation has worked for many years to end this brutal industry in China and Vietnam. Since October 2000, our China Bear Rescue has seen 219 bears rescued from the barbaric farms and now residing in peace at our sanctuary in Chengdu .

In Vietnam, where we began negotiations with the government eight years ago, finally these talks are bearing fruit. In 2005, the authorities made a firm commitment to phase out bear bile farming and last year we signed a formal agreement with the government to rescue 200 bears. While it has been illegal in Vietnam since 1992, nothing concrete has been achieved to stop the practice until now - partly because no sanctuary existed to house rescued bears.

AAF and its supporters are overcoming this hurdle. We are building a sanctuary and education centre near Hanoi and the first 50 lucky moon bears will start arriving in May.

Given the abundant herbal and synthetic alternatives to bear bile, this cruel, unnecessary industry has no place in the modern world and must be stopped once and for all. If you would like to help this campaign, please visit or call 27912225.

Jill Robinson, Animals Asia Foundation