Government Hill is important part of HK's history and should be left alone

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am

I refer to your editorial ('Public has stake in Government Hill', November 17) and the letter from Katty Law ('Plans to sell off Government Hill display ignorance and irresponsibility', November 19).

The government's proposal to rezone Government Hill from the present 'government, institution, community' use to 'commercial' use and to sell the west wing of the Central government offices for redevelopment cannot be justified.

Government Hill forms part of a large green circle in the heart of [what was then known as] Victoria City, which also embraces St John's Cathedral, the Court of Final Appeal building, Government House and gardens, as well as the Botanical Gardens. It is an invaluable heritage site full of Hong Kong's history over the past 170 years, especially under British colonial rule. As the only large lung of our central business district, it provides a unique green environment.

The government's justification for the sale is that it would bring in HK$6 billion in revenue. Surely the history and heritage of Hong Kong is worth more than that? The government does not need the money; it has just given away close to HK$40 billion.

The administration also claims there is demand for more office space in Central and proposes a new 32-storey office building on the site. But such a redevelopment will merely produce 307,000 square feet of gross floor area. This is an insignificant increase of only 66,147 square feet over the perfectly good existing west wing, which provides 240,853 square feet of office space. Therefore the impact on office supply in Central will be negligible and cannot justify losing our history and heritage.

Furthermore, the proposed new office building will aggravate traffic at one of the most crowded junctions in Central where Ice House Street cuts across Queen's Road Central.

If the government has no use for the existing west wing, surely it should offer it back to the community. Many good uses for the benefit of the community can be made of such a fine building in such a central location.

The administration must get its priorities right. It must remember that all our natural resources, including land and sea, are public property and only held by the government in trust for the community. Therefore it must put the environment before revenue and public interest before the private interests of developers.

Winston K. S. Chu, adviser, Society for Protection of the Harbour



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