We must not lose sight of Hong Kong's unique cultural heritage

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 February, 2008, 12:00am

In recent years there has been public discontent over our threatened cultural heritage.

In cramped Hong Kong, historic sites are often sacrificed because of rapid economic development. In the scramble for land, if it is a choice between saving an historic site or putting up a commercial building, officials will probably opt for the latter option. Despite the efforts of Hong Kong people, heritage sites such as Queen's Pier have been demolished. Our officials do not seem to have recognised the importance of preserving our cultural heritage. Yet government support is essential, especially when it comes to the high cost of rejuvenation and negotiating with and compensating private property owners.

The administration needs to strike the right balance between heritage preservation and economic interests. And any preservation work must be done properly.

Revamp projects such as Peel Street and Wan Chai market may be difficult and may seem in conflict with economic development, but in such cases, officials would be justified in looking for alternative sites for new buildings. There are other important aspects of our heritage besides architecture, such as, for example, dai pai dong.

Some people have argued they tarnish our image, but the government could improve that state of affairs and still keep the dai pai dong.

When it comes to cultural preservation, our administration can play the role of a responsible parent.

Non-governmental organisations which specialise in heritage preservation can also help. They can challenge the government and organise people. For example, when Queen's Pier was about to be demolished last summer, the group Local Action led protests. The demolition went ahead, but the protests focused attention on what was happening. In any battle for heritage preservation, public support is vital.

Cultural heritage is a city's most valuable asset. It is what makes Hong Kong unique. The SAR government and the citizens of Hong Kong must do their utmost to preserve that fragile heritage.

Cherrie Cheng, Tuen Mun