Maids in push for rest day refuge

WITH a placard asking ''Statue Square - Where do we go from here?'', a group of domestic helpers marched from their usual Sunday gathering spot to an abandoned government building they hope will be turned into a refuge and recreation centre for them.

The group of 100 off-duty maids urged the Government to turn over the old Western Hospital in High Street to migrant workers.

But the fate of the building is in dispute. A preservation group wants the hospital restored.

The Government says it will be demolished and half the land used to build a community centre, while the other half will be sold to private developers.

The future of the hospital has been a subject of debate for more than five years.

It was given a Grade 1 listing by the Antiquities Advisory Board, classifying it as something which should be ''preserved at all cost''.

The board wanted the imposing granite facade of the building - the only one of its kind in Hongkong - saved. Built in 1891, the building has stood empty since 1971.

Legislator Mrs Elsie Tu wrote to the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, Mr Tony Eason, asking him to consider a request to preserve the building and to support the plan for it to be turned into a centre for domestic workers.

The chairman of the advisory board, Mr David Lung Ping-yee, called on the Governor and legislators to take the lead and help preserve similarly threatened buildings.

According to the District Lands Officer for Hongkong West, Mr Frank Phillips, the site will go up for sale in about 12 months.

''I don't think there is any way this building is going to be saved,'' he said.