The Urban Renewal Authority yesterday defended its lack of progress on heritage preservation in Hong Kong at a public forum where a Singaporean expert showcased the city state's achievements. Chan Yew Lih, of the National University of Singapore's architecture department, was speaking at a symposium at the Fringe Club, called 'Disappearing Heritage: Comparing Singapore with Hong Kong', which looked at the preservation practices of the two. 'Cultural heritage is an expression of the ways of living by a community and is passed on from generation to generation. It reinforces our cultural identity and continuity ... and is essential to the maintenance of purpose in life,' Professor Chan said. The examples she gave included the Shuanglin Monastery; the MICA Building which was the former Hill Street Police Station; the former House of Tan Yeok Nee, a successful 19th century Chinese merchant, which was converted into the Chicago Graduate School of Business; its Chinatown district; and Far East Square. Acknowledging the city's lack of progress in comparison to Singapore, Urban Renewal senior manager David Au Chi-wai said the relative youth of the body, which was established only five years ago, put it at a disadvantage on heritage works. 'Singapore started its heritage preservation more than 30 years earlier than Hong Kong so we still have a long list of projects to work on,' Mr Au said. He said it was harder for the Hong Kong body because its work was restricted by the requirements of many authorities. 'Although urban renewal projects are selected by the government, when we want to proceed with a project we need to go through the Town Planning Board,' Mr Au said. 'We are also subject to monitoring from the antiquities authorities and the building regulations [authority] which controls safety and environmental standards.' Professor Chan explained how Singapore's conservation efforts included buildings and monuments from every period of its history. 'Cultural heritage is a bridge between the past and the present ... and that's why we believe in adaptive reuse - where the buildings are restored or modified and put to use to regain their use value and ensure their survival,' she said. Singapore chooses buildings to preserve according for their aesthetic quality, historical significance, social values and technological importance. 'So far, we have gazetted 54 monuments, thousands of buildings and 71 conservation areas,' she said. Mr Au said the Hong Kong authority needed supporting legislation for a more comprehensive approach towards a focused heritage policy. As of March 2004, there were 72 declared monuments in Hong Kong, according to the Antiquities and Monuments Office website.