Sanctuary for our ex-leaders opens its doors
An ornate building in Central with a pivotal place in Hong Kong's history will be open for one day today, giving the public a rare opportunity to admire a structure more than 100 years old.
The grade-one listed historic building at 28 Kennedy Road, which is the post-service office of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, was last open to the public three years ago; there are no plans for future open days.
Heritage conservation groups pressed the government to keep it open to the public.
Others question how much post-retirement work Hong Kong's former leaders will have for them to be given so much space.
Tung, who is the sole occupant, has used the 3,660 sq ft building as an office to receive dignitaries and conduct interviews since 2007.
The building is thought to have been erected in the late 1890s and used as a school. It has since had a number of tenants. A French bank turned it into a dormitory in the 1920s, it became a Russian consulate and it was also where British and Chinese officials negotiated the 1997 handover agreement.
The building is large enough for three former chief executives, but at present Tung occupies an office on the first floor which is slightly bigger than the other two.
His office is neat, with his desk bare of anything except for several magazines, all of which feature Chinese leaders on the covers.
The Italian Classical Revival style building is government property. It was first sold to the Hongkong Land Investment and Agency Company - now Hongkong Land - in 1896.
Two years ago the main building, the servants' quarters and a rickshaw parking space nearby were given grade-one historic status, which mean they are of outstanding merit and every effort should be made to preserve them if possible. This grading does not protect the building against being demolished.
The two-storey servants' quarters were used by media reporters during the Sino-British negotiations. It is now a security control room.
The government estimates it will cost about HK$2.2 million a year to maintain the building. The money will go on wages for three secretarial and clerical staff and a driver, and operating expenses.
Admission is free, but no more than 80 visitors will be allowed in at once to protect the wooden floor.
Faustus Lam Sair-ling, a senior maintenance surveyor for the Architectural Services Department, advised people to step gently on the staircase because it is cantilevered - meaning it is only supported on one side.
The building is open from 10am to 5pm today.
Take a look
28 Kennedy Road is thought to have been built in the 1890s
The grade-one historic building has room for this many ex-chief executives: 3