Developers set to retain top priority
Proposed changes to heritage laws will not override development, government officials hinted yesterday.
Speaking at Legco's home affairs panel, Esther Leung Yuet-yin, deputy secretary for home affairs, said: '[Department] projects are in different stages of development. It is difficult to freeze them.
'We will consult the public on how the existing heritage law should be amended. Whether it will be overriding, we will have to discuss it. Society may not have a consensus.'
She said the public would be consulted on heritage conservation in the second half of this year.
Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said the government should freeze all development projects that involve heritage sites after hearing 15 pressure groups' views. The groups disputed the rationale to sell the Hollywood Road married police quarters for a high-rise residential development.
Another disputed project centres on the Urban Renewal Authority's plan to redevelop Nga Tsin Wai in Wong Tai Sin, a village that is at least 600 years old. Property giant Cheung Kong (Holdings) owns about 80 per cent of the property rights of the historic village.
Civic Party legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said: 'The situation now is such that heritage sites are disappearing when you're still collecting views on how to preserve them. The conservation policy, first announced in 2004, went nowhere. Now you're consulting again. What you're doing is meaningless - decorative and political public relations.'
League of Social Democrats legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip asked for the new law on conservation to be given the power to override development.
The first stage of a two-stage consultation is being conducted on amending existing heritage conservation laws to meet the community's aspirations. The second stage will be launched later this year. Issues include setting up a heritage trust with enough money to compensate owners and reviewing the role of the Antiquities Advisory Board. Ms Leung promised it would be more transparent.