Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen vowed yesterday to make it his 'personal mission' to preserve historic buildings, saying his government had heeded public demands for better heritage conservation.
But he brushed aside questions about lack of public support for his administration in light of the massive turnout at the June 4 vigil, and the big crowd expected for the July 1 march.
Mr Tsang told a Foreign Correspondents' Club lunch that, under his administration, there was a 'new beginning' for heritage protection, which responded to public demands.
'This is my home,' he said. 'This is where I grew up. And it's my personal mission to ensure we protect and lovingly restore and reuse our built heritage for generations to come.'
Heritage conservation has repeatedly been a flashpoint issue in recent years, with the demolition of the old Star Ferry pier in Central and concerns about protecting historic buildings from profit-minded developers leading to accusations of government neglect.
He admitted that people felt the government had 'not done enough', but said that under his leadership the government had rethought the development model and how best to balance the needs of a modern city. 'There comes a time in the development of a modern society like Hong Kong when people must stop and ask: 'Have we gone too far? Or, are we sacrificing too much for another skyscraper?'' he said.
Citing his childhood memories of living in the former police married quarters in Aberdeen Street, with the historic part of Central as his 'backyard' playground, Mr Tsang said the government was committed to heritage conservation.
This would include the launch soon of five new conservation projects, following the revitalisation of several historic buildings as cultural centres, a boutique hotel and a youth hostel.
Mr Tsang dismissed suggestions from the floor that his administration had become a 'lame duck', and also brushed aside the many slogans at the June 4 vigil that said he did not represent the public.
'That reflects the diversity of our city and the richness of our community,' he said. 'All I can say is that I fully understand Hong Kong people's feelings and views about June 4.'
Asked if he was concerned at the weak public support for his leadership, he said: 'I have enormous respect for people who do not agree with me from time to time. I always take on my job with humility, taking care to listen to what people say to me, quietly, openly and discreetly.'