Stop demolishing Star Ferry Pier

2006-11-29 - oiwan

In order to construct a highway (P2) along the coast, connecting Wanchai and Central, the Hong Kong government decided to demolish Star Ferry and Queen's Pier - the two most famous tourist spots in Hong Kong. Since Monday (November 27), the pier is being torn down bit by bit.

Architects, conservationists and cultural activists are now launching public campaigns to rescue the pier. This morning (Nov 30, 2006), a group of citizens climbed up the clock tower, rang the bell and put up a banner, calling for a stop in demolition. (See: photos) A mass mobilization will take place at noon time on 3 of December, 2006. The demonstrators will march from Old star ferry pier to government building and have a cultural night outside Star ferry pier.

The Star Ferry is a passenger ferry service operator in Hong Kong. Its principal routes carry passengers across the Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The company has been operating since the late 1880s. It was founded by Parsee Dorabjee Nowrojee as the Kowloon Ferry Company in 1888 and renamed it to Star Ferry in 1898. The name was inspired by his love of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Crossing the Bar", whose first line was Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me! (More in wikipedia)

Earlier this year, the association of Architects carried out a survey and found out that 94% of its members thought the pier should be under conservation plan. The pier has been the background of many Hong Kong movies, among the most famous movies is the World of Suzie Wong. National Geographic Traveler magazine has also listed the pier as the top 50 tourist sites in the world. Moreover, architecturally, the ferry pier is one of the last examples of a Streamline Modern public building in Hong Kong.

However, the government defended that the star pier has only 48 years of history and thereby not protected by the historical conservation law. The land reclamation plan had been under studied since 1999, and the government had not received any opposition until recently. However, conservationists criticized that the consultation were not opened and it was ridiculous to treat Star Ferry as a private owned facility when the building has so much value to the city and the people.

Instead of preserving the actual pier, the government constructed a Disney style new pier which mimics the old pier. The Civil Engineering and Development Department said that in order to preserve Hong Kong people's collective memories, they had scanned the old Star Ferry pier with three dimensional digital technique and saved the building in the virtual computer files!

Here is a translation of a public appeal letter against the demolition:

To the Chief Executive of the SAR government (28 of Nov 2006)

Stop demolishing the Star Ferry pier and the Clock tower

We shouldn't underestimate the value of Star Ferry at Edinburgh Place as a significant image of Hong Kong and collective memories of Hong Kong people. The pier, together with the Queen's pier, City Hall, Edinburgh Place and Queen's Place, in the 100 years of city development, has become a most distinctive and unique historical public space.

Every city has it own humanistic construction and cultural landscape according to its geographical locations. They are related to the historical context and the rhythm of the city. In 2002, the Seoul City government in South Korea decided to demolish the city center high-speed road and restored the Chonggyechon River which had been covered by concrete in 1970s; in Japan, the Tokyo city government has also planned to move the city center high-speed road underground in order to restore historical bridges. We can see that many cities are now tracing back and restoring the cultural heritage of their past, in order to rescue the cities' historical and cultural value from previous short-sighted development.

On the last day service of old Star Ferry Pier, more than 150,000 citizens paid visit to the site. In the past few months, many civic groups have been campaigning against the demolition. Cultural sector argued for the benefits of conservation plan, young people raised their concern and took action to protect the city symbol. Foreign visitors also wrote to local civic groups and SAR government showing their support for the preservation.

It is disheartening to see construction dozers moved into the old pier and started tearing down the building. A civic groups collision has been formed and we pleaded the Chief executive, together with the executive council members to reconsider the plan and stop the demolition. Let the Star Ferry pier continue to nourish the future generation's identification with the city and cultivate their creative mind with historical and cultural value. The sea coast of Central district should be a collective planning process.

Please send an urgent appeal letter to the Chief Executive of the HK Government at ceo@ceo.gov.hk and cc it to martin@conservancy.org.hk

Original chinese version of the statement at inmediahk.net
video produced by Pink A (粉紅A)
photos from inmediahk.net

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