Star Ferry is more than a tourist attraction to Hong Kong people

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 July, 2009, 12:00am

I refer to the letter by Winifred Chung, for the Commissioner for Tourism ('Piazza will be public space for all to enjoy', June 27) replying to the letter by Charlie Chan Wing-tai ('Iconic Star Ferry will suffer if bus terminal is relocated', June 20).

Charlie Chan must accept that what matters these days is not what ordinary Hong Kong people want or like. The Star Ferry has a special place in our hearts but the government is hell-bent on eliminating its role as a public transport system and converting it into a mere tourist attraction.

This is demonstrated by a number of measures. The original Central Star Ferry pier, so convenient to reach, was eliminated and the ferry service moved to its current out-of-the-way location. Plans are afoot to extend the elephantine Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre onto the Wan Chai pier bus station. This will certainly affect passenger flow on that route. Further erosion of passenger numbers will be inevitable if proposals to place a commercial helipad on Golden Bauhinia Square go through.

In Tsim Sha Tsui, the bus terminal that since 1921 has allowed convenient interchange between bus and ferry services for thousands of daily commuters is to be moved to Tsim Sha Tsui East, miles away. Why? To make a piazza for tourists. Never mind that a long expanse of the harbourfront is already dedicated to tourists via the Avenue of the Stars.

Objections on the part of Hong Kong people to restrictions on access to Star Ferry services are met with the 'It's the economy, stupid' argument. Whatever the Tourism Commission rightly or wrongly feels will appeal to tourists takes precedence over the interests of Hong Kong citizens. Ms Chung puts it that because the bus terminus has been extensively altered it has no heritage value. This completely ignores the convenience and sentiments of local people. Why has the commission taken over town planning to override our interests and pander to tourists?

Perhaps the government's majority shareholding in the MTR, a much more expensive and stressful form of transport, is behind the push to marginalise the ferry service? Whatever, local people are once again the losers.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai