Authority is destroying heritage and environment of Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong has already suffered too much destruction of its environment and heritage, with the loss of the former Hong Kong Star Ferry, Queen's Pier, Tiger Balm Gardens, the former Marine Police Headquarters' setting, the ongoing Central reclamation, as well as, for example, beautiful shophouses and balconied tenements.

However, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) is continuing to ruin our environment and heritage, with the destruction of Wedding Card Street in Wan Chai, and the historic, 150-year-old Graham Street/Gage Street outdoor market in Central. There is also the outrageous mutilation of the much-loved, unique and historic Wan Chai market, with the so-called preservation scheme - building a monstrous 148-metre-high residential tower on top of it. Of all the historic buildings and areas in Wan Chai, the one building and area that absolutely should have been conserved properly is the historic Bauhaus-style market, with its marvellous interior spaces, its form which so well fits the site, the collective memory of generations of Wan Chai and other Hong Kong people, its wartime role and its contribution to the overall townscape of the area with the attractive wooded slope of the Ruttonjee Hospital area behind.

Whatever the URA is up to it cannot be described as urban renewal or conservation, which should be about upgrading, improving and enhancing the environment, living conditions and employment opportunities of the residents, while at the same time conserving the best of what is there. What the URA would appear to be up to is comprehensive area destruction and redevelopment. If any body in Europe or America proposed what the URA is planning there would be widespread outrage. That Wan Chai market ever fell into the hands of the URA was a grave error of judgment but it should be saved from this destruction, unless Hong Kong is to progress further on the road to being a bland, boring and nondescript city.

Unless the URA conserves Wan Chai market without this outrageous tower on top and avoids similar destruction of the Graham Street/Gage Street market perhaps it would be time to reconsider the need and use for the URA at all.

K. J. R. Borthwick, Pok Fu Lam