My Take

Time to reopen saved government site

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 5:03am

Now that the government has caved in to public demands to preserve all of the former Central Government Offices, we must ask why the paths through the site are still closed to the public.

When will bureaucrats realise those spaces and paths, pleasantly lined with trees and greenery, belong to the public and are not to be shut off for security or other reasons?

The government under former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen initially planned to preserve only the Main and East blocks while redeveloping the West Wing into commercial buildings. Public pressure, however, forced the new administration under Leung Chun-ying to reverse the plan and preserve the entire CGO. The square between the old Main and West Wings is a case in point. It's at the centre of paths connecting the St John's Cathedral, the historic Court of Final Appeal building, Battery Path, Queen's Road and Lower Albert Road. Opening it will help pedestrians navigate more easily in Central while tourists and visitors can stroll through it to reach the nearby Hong Kong Park and the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. It will also serve as a quiet place for workers in the area having lunch or taking a break.

The area is a historical attraction for visitors and people interested in colonial-era Hong Kong, and the various paths of the former CGO can serve as the arteries to reach key landmarks.

Yet, the gates have been closed and passage blocked for years following its brief occupation by right-of-abode seekers and their supporters. Citing security, officials slammed the gates shut and never reopened them.

But that rationale no longer exists after government headquarters moved to Tamar, Admiralty. The government can now expect protesters to focus on the new headquarters.

The Department of Justice and law-related non-governmental organisations will take up offices in the preserved buildings. But the department, though a key government unit, is unlikely to attract too many protests.

Certainly there is no reason to preserve security just for the department alone. It will cost the government nothing to open, or rather reopen, the former CGO site for the public while earning much needed goodwill.