Taxi driver lone dissenting voice as conservationists plead for pier

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2007, 12:00am

Representatives of 11 conservation groups and a lone taxi driver spoke at an unprecedented public hearing of the Antiquities Advisory Board organised yesterday afternoon to assess public sentiment on whether Queen's Pier should be given the top grade for preservation.

All but the taxi driver supported the pier's preservation.

Giving his name as Mr Lam, he demanded to speak shortly after the meeting started.

'Queen's Pier must be demolished,' he said. 'Hong Kong needs development, otherwise we will be like Cuba, which only has run-down buildings and old cars. The government must respect contracts, otherwise it will be the laughing stock of the international community.'

Among those who spoke out were three rare guests: a Taiwanese scholar and former cultural chief of Taipei, Lung Ying-tai; former chairman of the defunct Urban Council Hilton Cheong-leen; and retired government architect Lee Yuet.

Speaking before the meeting started, Ms Lung urged the government's antiquities advisory body to preserve the pier, saying it was time for Hong Kong to drop its property development-led ideology.

'Hong Kong will lose its attractiveness if it doesn't value its history.'

Mr Cheong, head of one of the city's oldest civic groups, the Hong Kong Civic Association, said: 'Queen's Pier, together with Edinburgh Place and City Hall, represents a public cultural and amenity complex with untold fond memories for many Hong Kong residents, young and old.

'As an integral part of the complex, Queen's Pier has a high level of heritage collective memory, which can only grow stronger in the years ahead, providing it remains in its original location.'

He said reconstructing the pier between two public piers might be cheaper and easier, but the pier would be much more significant as part of the City Hall complex.

Mr Lee was a government architect between the 1960s and 1970s and was invited by activist Paul Zimmerman of the Designing Hong Kong Harbour District group. Mr Lee said Queen's Pier must stay at the present location.

'It should not be demolished, but if it is unavoidable, it must be rebuilt at the present location. It is an inseparable part of the City Hall complex.'

The veteran architect was a student of the late Gordon Brown, who was assigned to build City Hall.

Mr Lee said it was the team's intention to make City Hall, Queen's Pier and Edinburgh Place a straight line, creating a central axis.

Albert Lai Kwong-tak of the People's Council for Sustainable Development said: 'What has happened since the demolition of the Star Ferry pier in December has given Queen's Pier a new meaning. It is our new symbol of a civic movement.'

Patsy Cheng Man-wah of the See Network said: ' The pier witnessed how Hong Kong evolved from a colony to a special administrative region of China. To experience its cultural significance, we must experience it at the scene.'