Amah Rock's bid for world fame at risk

Martin Wong

Amah Rock is still doing well in its quest to become one of the seven new natural wonders of the world, but unless it gets an official sponsor soon it will have to drop out of the race.

On its perch high above Sha Tin, the 15-metre stone pinnacle is in the top 77 natural formations - 11 from each of seven categories in the global internet poll - from which a final shortlist will be chosen for judging.

It also ranks second in its own category of Caves, Rock Formations and Valleys, behind Djavolja Varos or Devil's Town - an area of earth pinnacles in Serbia - and ahead of the much better known Grand Canyon in the United States and Uluru or Ayer's Rock in Australia.

But the organiser, the New7Wonders campaign, has warned that it risks being dumped when the contest enters its next phase in July.

In a letter to Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman James Tien Pei-chun, the non-profit foundation led by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber wrote: 'We must notify you that a nominee can only advance to the next stage of the campaign if it is being officially supported through an Official Supporting Committee (OSC).

'At the moment, Amah Rock does not have an OSC in place, and if nobody comes forth from Hong Kong to support Amah Rock, it will ultimately be suspended from the campaign - which is something I am sure you would like to avoid.' It added that as chairman, Mr Tien was eligible to form a support committee and urged him to get the process started.

The Tourism Board said it had received the letter and was seeking further information.

Tia Viering, head of communication of the New7Wonders campaign, said from her Basle, Switzerland office that the board would have to pay US$199 for the administration fee in forming the support committee.

'We will then provide a comprehensive tool to help promote Amah Rock.'

She noted that the Tourism Board was not the only group eligible to form the support committee.

'It can be a government department or a non-government organisation that is willing to take up the task,' she added.

The group ran a similar contest to choose the seven man-made wonders of the world. That drew nearly a billion voters. The Great Wall and the Colosseum in Rome topped that poll.

Voting will continue until July 7, when the New7Wonders of Nature panel of experts will choose 21 finalists to be put to a popular vote. The winners will be declared in 2011.

Young Ng Chunyeong, chairman of the Association for Geoconservation noted that while he admired Amah Rock, he could not see it as a natural wonder of the world.

'In appreciating a rock, you have to judge if it is splendid, beautiful and elegant. I really do not think Amah Rock is good enough. I think the hexagonal rock columns in Sai Kung are a more worthy nominee,' he said.

Amah Rock in Lion Rock Country Park is so named as it resembles a woman carrying a baby on her back. Its Cantonese name is mong fu shek - 'stone watching for husband'.