Removal of pier vital, says development chief
The development chief yesterday reiterated that there was a pressing need to dismantle Queen's Pier to make way for the Central-Wan Chai bypass to solve traffic congestion.
Because of disputes and court cases surrounding the Central reclamation phase 3, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the bypass and P2 road - a four-lane Central-Admiralty link - originally scheduled for completion in two years, would not be ready until 2016 at the earliest.
'The traffic congestion problem caused by the delay will become more and more obvious,' she said on RTHK's Hong Kong Letter.
The government says the roads will alleviate traffic congestion and provide connections to existing and future road networks in Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay.
Pledging to strike a balance between conservation and development to avoid further confrontations, Mrs Lam vowed to work with the public to solve the 'complicated and controversial conservation issues'.
'I hope that in the future I can continue communicating with those who care about heritage conservation - including those students and scholars who have stayed at Queen's Pier - and that everybody can adopt an open and pragmatic attitude in the discussions,' she said.
Although disagreeing with the activists' demand for the pier to be preserved, she acknowledged the persistence and passion that led them to stay at the pier, with some even staging a hunger strike.
'Three days ago, the government smoothly took back the land at Queen's Pier which was occupied for a few months, and the three young people have already stopped their hunger strike. Yet I believe, and hope, that their belief in supporting local culture and conservation of historic heritage will not be diminished,' Mrs Lam said.
Although Mrs Lam attended an open forum and met the protesters at the pier last Sunday, the minister said this was not the best means for genuine exchanges and consensus-building.
She said both the Central reclamation phase 3 and the assessment of the historic value of Queen's Pier complied with legal and public consultation requirements, as well as having the support of Legco and relevant statutory and advisory bodies.
The government's decision to demolish the pier and rebuild it on a site yet to be determined showed it tried its best to respond to conservationists' demands, she said.
Last Wednesday, hundreds of police were sent to clear the protesters at Queen's Pier.
In his first public comment on the operation, Commissioner of Police Tang King-shing hailed it as a success, saying that the protesters' safety had been the force's prime concern.
He also said police had so far received three complaints relating to the operation, which included accusations that officers assaulted protesters.