Government actions on heritage conservation don't inspire trust

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 February, 2015, 5:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 February, 2015, 5:42pm

In his article ("Heritage battles reflect a lack of trust within our society", January 23), Bernard Chan suggests that in Hong Kong the community is suspicious of the government and certain business sectors with regard to the caring for and reuse of heritage buildings.

Let us, however, ask Mr Chan what angers lovers of heritage with regard to the government's actions by asking a question. Let us say the Hong Kong authorities possessed a beautiful painting by an old master.

How would he and other art lovers feel if the government binned it, tore it in half, or permitted its defacing? That is how the Hong Kong government has treated, and continues to treat, some of our finest heritage.

Mr Chan refers to one declared monument, the former marine police headquarters at Tsim Sha Tsui. In 2009 it was turned into a hotel and shopping mall, its lease having been sold to a developer who was permitted to bulldoze the beautiful tree-covered hill in front, on which stood the parade ground. This destroyed almost the entire setting of the monument, where only a few trees remained, and we were presented with an up-market retail centre where the hill had been, destroying the monument's history and meaning.

In 2008, the government demolished the iconic, grade-one Queen's Pier, despite strong opposition by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and the community.

Queen's Pier had seen the landing of Britain's Queen Elizabeth in 1975 and the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1989, besides the arrival of governors.

We are again seeing the government treating Hong Kong's heritage with contempt in its proposed relocation of the Harcourt Road freshwater pumping station to a Hong Kong Park site, on a beautiful tree-covered slope above Cotton Tree Drive, as well as under part of the original grounds of declared monument Flagstaff House. Lai See described it as a "shoddy project and … another example of the government's low regard for heritage" ("Pumped up over heritage", February 4).

This project would see the felling of 118 trees, the destruction of a beautiful slope, degradation of the monument's setting and destruction of major sections of a historic defensive wall and classical balustrade.

Perhaps Mr Chan need look no further to answer why there is little trust in government on heritage, or trust in the ability or effectiveness of its heritage advisers.

Ken Borthwick, Pok Fu Lam