Bid to educate public on the heritage battle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 October, 2011, 12:00am


A woman whose family's historic private garden was saved from redevelopment five years ago has published a booklet challenging the government's version of its conservation efforts.

Cynthia Lee Hong-yee, granddaughter of the original owner of Dragon Garden in Sham Tseng, the largest of its kind in Hong Kong, said official publicity and education materials for schools exaggerated government initiatives and downplayed the role of pressure groups as well as her own efforts in spurring action.

She said her publication, detailing 13 cases of historic buildings including Dragon Garden, was aimed at raising awareness, especially among educators and students, about the importance of the community's preservation work.

She described as one-sided a government documentary about efforts to save historic King Yin Lei mansion. 'It boasted about how the development minister managed to stop the owner defacing the mansion. But it said little about the fact that it was a green group and the media who first exposed the threat, and did not mention that officials actually ignored the original owner's offer to donate the building,' she said of a short film released to mark the opening of the restored building on Stubbs Road earlier this year.

In 2007, the government declared the mansion a provisional monument and later arranged a land swap with the unidentified owner.

Lee also said a new teaching kit commissioned by the Development Bureau for the liberal studies curriculum in secondary schools also failed to give the bigger picture.

A thousand copies of her booklet, Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Timeline, will be distributed to 450 schools today. It highlights the different approaches for private sites such as Dragon Garden - where the owners are still trying to hammer out a preservation plan with the government - Haw Par Mansion in Tai Hang and Jessville in Pok Fu Lam.

'You can see officials are more active when faced with a redevelopment threat, but in the case of Dragon Garden, with an owner wanting to preserve it, they just drag it out,' Lee said. 'This booklet documents the facts to make people aware that public opinion and pressure is important in protecting our heritage.'