Ombudsman call on Maryknoll tree
A legislator is to lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman after the government decided not to prosecute Maryknoll Convent School yesterday for carrying out drainage work, in breach of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, which ultimately led to the destruction of a landmark 20-metre tree.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the secretary for development, told lawmakers in March that the Kowloon Tong school, a declared monument, had failed to inform the Antiquities and Monuments Office about the removal of its 70-year-old Norfolk Island pine a month earlier and had not sought approval for drainage work that damaged the tree's roots.
However, a government spokesman said yesterday that the tree was removed 'in accordance with the permitted requirements for protecting the safety of teachers, students and the public'.
Section six of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance states that any one who plants or removes trees in a monument should comply with the permit granted by the Secretary for Development.
In December 2008 the school had removed 18 trees that were suffering from decay after being attacked by pests, and planted seven trees the following year without informing the authority, the spokesman said. But the Department of Justice decided not to prosecute the school because the work was done 'to ensure public safety and did not damage the monument buildings'.
However, lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong criticised the decision not to prosecute and said she and other alumni of the school would lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman to see if there had been any administrative error. She said: 'The incident exposes loopholes in monitoring construction works carried out in monuments. Similar situations may be repeated in other monuments and affected heritage conservation in Hong Kong,' she said.