Hong Kong MTR

Fears relics removed from To Kwa Wan MTR site

Photos show empty pits at To Kwa Wan excavation site where artefacts were found

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 5:20am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 5:20am

Concern groups have renewed calls for relics unearthed at the To Kwa Wan MTR site to be preserved in situ after photographs emerged over the weekend of empty pits at the site.

A photo of the Sacred Hill site snapped on Saturday by the History Needs Us group from buildings near the station - which is part of the Sha Tin-Central Link - showed several empty ditches surrounded by steel piling.

The group fears construction may have begun before an archaeological survey could be conducted in the area, and that the relics may have been removed from the pits without public knowledge.

But an Antiquities and Monuments Office spokeswoman said yesterday no new relics had been removed according to its latest inspection, carried out on Friday.

Albert Lai Kwong-tak, chairman of the Professional Commons think tank, which is working with the group, said the MTR had to change its excavation strategy. "It removes opportunities for in situ preservation and violates the procedure set out in the China Principles for Heritage Conservation, which requires such relics to be removed only if no alternative can be found."

An MTR spokeswoman said the area was part of the third phase of the recently expanded excavation site, which was not covered by the link's original environmental impact assessment that stipulates all archaeological work must be complete before construction can begin.

"Construction of boundary walls was already under way when we were told the excavation site had to be expanded. All work not related to archaeological excavation has already been stopped," she said.

Thousands of artefacts and relics - including four wells dating back to the Song dynasty - have already been removed from the To Kwa Wan MTR site, which is under construction.

Under the MTR's Archaeological Action Plan, any relic found can be excavated and removed unless approval is given to leave it in place. This has prompted opposition from many groups, who want the relics kept where they are until the entire archaeological excavation is completed.

Antiquities Advisory Board chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo said it was impossible for the MTR to report to the board every time something new was found. "They will move the [relics] when they need to and keep a record of them unless we deem it is necessary that they stay," he said.