Activists to turn attention to reforming preservation system

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2007, 12:00am

Activists from Local Action have decided not to appeal against the ruling over the fate of Queen's Pier because of the 'unbearable financial risk'. Instead, they will shift their focus to reforming the heritage preservation system.

'Although we could still debate this case on legal grounds, we would need to bear an unbearable financial risk because the chance of getting legal aid to pursue the case is very bleak,' Chu Hoi-dick and Ho Loy of Local Action said in a statement yesterday.

The group will now try to 'reform the current heritage preservation system; in particular, to change the current shortcoming about the excessive power of the Antiquities Authority chief'.

On August 10, High Court Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon declared lawful former home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping's decision against granting monument status to Queen's Pier. This ruling cleared the way for not only its demolition, but also the final stage of the Central reclamation project, which began 10 years ago.

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review of Dr Ho's decision - said they were disappointed the judgment did not mention the need to review a 'seriously outdated and flawed' ordinance on heritage conservation and were discussing with their lawyers the possibility of an appeal.

Local Action's legal representative had earlier argued that Dr Ho, who was then the Antiquities Authority, acted improperly by not adopting the May recommendation of the Antiquities Advisory Board to grant the pier Grade I status. The guidelines state that every effort should be made to preserve Grade I structures.

Yet Justice Lam said in his ruling that the power and the discretion to declare a building a monument belonged to the authority under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

Members of Local Action camped at the pier for three months until the August 1 deadline for clearing the pier before demolition proceeded.

'We failed to save the pier, but we've gained the public echo on preserving the public space,' said Ip Lam-chong, another Local Action member.

'Hongkongers are much more concerned about the demolition of historical architecture and public space than before.'

Meanwhile, a team of engineers and activists will be formed to monitor the demolition of Queen's Pier. Mr Ip said they were worried components of the historic structure would be damaged while it was being dismantled.

'We urge government to replace the barriers around the site with transparent plastic hoardings so the public can see what's happening,' he said.