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This page is updated on 2007-04-18 16:46
Christian Service News

Issue 55 (April 2007)

 

Opinion Feedback

Cultural Heritage Is Not Fulfilled
Only Through Buildings

Recently there seems to be a consensus among Hong Kong people for the conservation of cultural heritage, perhaps ignited "epidemically" since the Star Ferry saga (although the advocacy on this arena by various civil society groups has been pursued for more than half a decade).

The government also realized this, and thus launched a consultation exercise on Built Heritage Conservation Policy. Unfortunately, this is limited only to Built Heritage, although the criteria of collective memory is included in the evaluation of whether a building is worthy to be preserved on the grounds of heritage significance.

In fact, there are tangible cultural heritage (such as historical buildings) and intangible cultural heritage (such as the living styles and patterns as manifested in the form of daily life activities).

Regrettable, the latter is far less recognized by the government although it in fact is, on the contrary, the most significant cultural treasure of Hong Kong. These life patterns are still alive and are serving the role of a living testimony of the historical development of Hong Kong people. This is a legacy left behind by our ancestors through their hard work to strive for a better quality of life, which forms the basis of a sustainable development for Hong Kong. It is not limited only to economic development but also social development with an equal concern for environmental conservation.

One obvious example is the diminishing market streets in Hong Kong through so called "urban regeneration". The proposal on redevelopment of Graham Street in Central by the Urban Renewal Authority is the most recent tragedy.

It is the vibrancy of market streets that earmarked the unique historical development of Hong Kong, and it is the people that make this history. Why do we have to demolish all these valuable historical yet still living daily life patterns treasured by Hong Kong people, and replace it by building "new" and "fake" historical market places?

To have big and "modern" chain stores located at the same place under the roof of "fake" historical buildings is meaningless. Why do we need to build "new" things to replace "old" things in order to preserve our heritage? Why do we have to "build" in order to "preserve"?

For cultural heritage, we need a holistic, integrative and dynamic policy. A holistic approach requires the vision of conserving a whole area with significant cultural and historical value, not just a single building that is going to be surrounded by skyscrapers. Heritage Conservation policy also requires a paradigm shift to stipulate that the surrounding areas should be compatible to that area designated to be of special heritage value, which includes casting restrictions, say, on the plot ratios, on the maximum building height, and on visual accessibility. An effective heritage policy should also be able to conserve the dynamic life patterns that reflect the vibrancy and the energetic daily life of Hong Kong people, not just a "snapshot" of people's life.

Conservation of cultural heritage cannot be fulfilled through preserving a few buildings as such! We need a holistic, integrative and dynamic Heritage Conservation policy!


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