Hong Kong has a golden chance to restore Queen’s Pier to its former glory
Government must take heed of plan by activist group Designing Hong Kong to rebuild the site – dear to the hearts of many – at its former location
The former Queen’s Pier in Central had a unique place in the collective psyche of Hong Kong people. Now that there is a chance to restore it back to where it was, with a cheaper price tag than those of three other options, it seems a no-brainer as to what the government should do.
For decades, the pier, along with Edinburgh Place and City Hall, served as a major public square, a cross-harbour hub, and the part of Central that catered to major cultural events. It was a meeting place for friends, families and lovers. Every British governor and royalty arrived and left the colony at the pier. It was the physical embodiment of so much of our history and culture.
That was why its dismantling in 2007 to make way for reclamation works – required for the Central to Wan Chai bypass – caused such an angry public outcry. It was not only that the pier had a grade-one historical status; many old buildings and structures had a similar classification. The pier was different in that many locals had a visceral attachment to this Central landmark. Its dismantling was also part of the continuing reclamation-erosion of our beloved harbour.
When historians write about the origins of localism, the outrage and protests against taking down the pier may be a good starting point. The cavalier and arrogant attitude of government officials greatly contributed to the public anger. Many came to see the government as intransigent and unresponsive.
Still, then public reaction was tame by today’s standards. But the anger and frustration were already there. Now they have exploded.
A public consultation is under way on three options for restoring the pier – all of which involve locating it between Pier 9 and 10, a fair distance from the original site.
Designing Hong Kong, an activist group, and its supporters have pointed out an obvious alternative: put the pier back to where it was. It would not only be cheaper but restore its cultural and historical value.
Instead of just focusing on the pier’s transport function, bureaucrats should think outside the box on this project. Restoring the old pier will not put radical localism back in the bottle, but it would make many people happy by restoring a part of the city that is dear to the hearts of so many.