Queen’s Pier has become the second battlefield for conservationists and the government over heritage conservation following the Star Ferry saga which saw the iconic landmark demolished amid a public outcry.
Write a letter to the SCMP to argue EITHER for OR against demolition.
I am writing to express my concern over the demolition of historical buildings, a topic that has recently inaugurated much public brawling. In fact, and to be perfectly honest, I chafe at the idea of disassembly.
While the Chief Executive on the one hand is reassuring everyone, that the government will put heritage conservation on the very top of its priority list; Star Ferry Pier, Queen’s Pier, and countless other less known are on the other hand being dismantled, alluding once again that economic benefits can always surpass and supersede cultural values and the will of the majority.
Undoubtedly, more space for economic use means more money flowing into the Treasury, but wrecking sites that are, as most senile citizens can attest, riddled and besprent with collective memories to achieve this goal? I think they have missed the point.
Very true indeed, Hong Kong is now in a desperate need of land. You can see traffic jams are pervasive every day and everywhere. This need becomes even more conspicuous after the government’s submission to renounce the landfilling project temporarily. In view of these, measures to relieve traffic congestion should actually be welcomed cordially, but that particular measure has to be effective in the first place.
However, under no circumstances should, and can, removing iconic landmarks be considered as a workable method. First of all, the land occupied by those buildings is extremely limited. Even if those areas are cleared, the leeway spared will be of no real significance, when compared with the area of the whole region. It is possible, even probable, that the economic benefit, better in terms of money, hopefully produced through this cannot even offset the reconstruction cost!
There are, certainly, proponents of demolition who aver that the historical buildings are outdated, and that leaving them at their original sites might tarnish Hong Kong’s international prestige as a modern city. But should we demolish these buildings for good for this seemingly good reason? Behold cities like London, or Paris. Being as prestigious and modern as Hong Kong, these cities have never tried to cast off their traditional countenance. This is sheerly because people in Britain and France understand that their own histories are glorifying, however flawed they are, not demeaning. Any culture which eradicates its own history in the name of “redevelopment” is doomed to negation.
Besides, if I am not very much mistaken, isn’t the Hong Kong Tourism Board promoting the SAR as a metropolis with different cultures blended with each other? How could they have discounted the cultural value of such buildings? Queen’s Pier, for one, was built in a European modern utilitarian style. Such kind of design is sporadic in Hong Kong nowadays, and is surely worth preserving. All these edifices are ready-made cultural icons of the region.
People beseeching and imploring for heritage conservation are not at all obsolete and obstinate, nor have they just succumbed to a climate of uproar. Most of them have their memories in these places and buildings. Collective memory, they say. This is something indefinable, something that has witnessed one’s development from a child to an adult, or from a junior to an elder. Thence grandeur is conjured. These are genuine feelings that must be cherished.
Today we Hong Kong people are condemned to believing the utmost importance of economic status. Here and there we can see the essence of realism and materialism - money talks. Prima facie we dictate to all, but actually we are more thwarted and defeated than at any point of our history. We have overlooked many things to which we should have paid tribute. Yet, the world is moving so fast that we cannot have time to try for some remorse. But let bygones be bygones. In the cacophony of all claims and denunciations, heritage is an insidious treasure, not an invidious impediment to development. Hopefully we can at least try to do the right thing - preserve the heritage, which in the long run, I trust, will prove to be a wise choice.
Student or Learner