Decision not to declare Queen's Pier a monument lawful: judge

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 August, 2007, 12:00am

The High Court yesterday declared lawful former home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping's controversial decision against giving monument status to Queen's Pier.

The activists who initiated the judicial review of Dr Ho's decision said they were disappointed that the judgment did not mention the need to review a 'seriously outdated and flawed' ordinance on heritage conservation, and were discussing with their lawyers the possibility of an appeal.

A spokesman for the Development Bureau said demolition of the pier would go ahead. 'It's time to move on and the preservation works should proceed as scheduled without further delay,' he said.

He added that the government would remove metal features and erect temporary support for the preservation of structural parts of the pier.

'We do not rule out the possibility of re-assembling Queen's Pier at its original location,' the spokesman said, adding the government would improve conservation policies and increase resource allocation for heritage conservation.

Chu Hoi-dick and Ho Loy, represented by Martin Lee Chu-ming SC, argued that Dr Ho, who was then the Antiquities Authority chief, acted improperly by not adopting the recommendation of the Antiquities Advisory Board. In May, the board classified the pier as a Grade I structure. The guidelines state that every effort should be made to preserve Grade I structures.

But in his judgment, Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon said the power and the discretion to declare a building a monument were in the hands of the authority under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. The board played only an advisory role, he said.

Evidence showed Dr Ho had considered the board's non-statutory classification, he said.

'How he weighed it against the other relevant matters falls primarily within the province of his judgment.'

He did not accept Mr Lee's claim that Grade I status was an 'implied request' from the board to the authority for a monument declaration to be made. The pier, built in 1954, had been the landing place for new governors and a public pier.

Mr Justice Lam found it 'perfectly lawful' for Dr Ho to seek and consider an independent assessment of the pier by his executive arm, the Antiquities and Monuments Office, after hearing the advice of the board. The office's view was that the significance of the site did not warrant a declaration.

Mr Chu was disappointed with the judgment. 'Not only does it say nothing on the need to revamp the existing system, it seems to have reinforced the legitimacy of having all the power and discretion concentrated in the hands of the authority,' he said.

Lee Ho-yin, director of the architectural conservation programme at the University of Hong Kong, said the scope of the board should be more clearly defined and its members should be able to represent different sectors of the society.