Society put HK on map of prehistoric China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 October, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 October, 1994, 12:00am

AS a faithful reader of the South China Morning Post for 24 years, I was shocked to read the character assassination published on Monday, September, headlined, 'Hong Kong heritage row', written by Patricia Young. I was described as 'lanky'. Of what relevance is that? The article led off by comparing me to a fighting bull terrier, later calling me 'rabid' and 'never good at doing tricks, unless you count going for the jugular'.

Just for the record, I have never hurled abuse or pig manure at a government official, never threatened violence, have never protested in the street and have never broken the law to make a point.

According to Miss Young's unnamed source, 'Bill has plenty of time on his hands and he can make things difficult for you.' When I took up the Synagogue issue I spent long hours in the evenings and on weekends.

If anyone has any doubt about the smug and totally wrong position taken by the Recreation and Culture Branch they should visit 76 Robinson Road to see one of the finest buildings in the territory. It stands more as a monument to the branch's incompetence and stubbornness than to anything that was accomplished by myself and a handful of others concerned about Hong Kong's heritage.

Miss Young missed the main point of the issue. It is not about 'amateur versus professional'. The issue is simply one of private initiative versus government expansion. It was the Hong Kong Archaeological Society that put Hong Kong on the map of prehistoric China with its work at Sham Wan, Lamma in the 1970s and with the monograph on that site published in 1978. This volume was praised by scholars around the world as exemplary, with research from various disciplines woven into the site report. We are naturally hopeful that the Government's own archaeological unit (the Antiquities and Monuments Office) can eventually reach that level of research, publication and academic respect, but it is at least two years away.

The society's case for an expanded subvention for full-time staff is based in the increasing need to mount large salvage excavations. It is in accordance with the well-established tradition in Hong Kong to build up local institutions rather than government bureaucracy to take on educational, medical, sporting, social services, and cultural endeavours. And it aspires to the much-vaunted Hong Kong way of life whereby merit and efficient performance are rewarded, whereby success brings growth and development.

Unfortunately, the Recreation and Culture Branch seems to have dug itself into such a deep, fortified position that it will not heed the support the society has had from many prominent people in the community.