Escalation of Operation Protect Queen’s Pier
If all goes according to plan, the Legislative Council (LegCo) Finance Committee will today pass a bill allocating HKD $50 million for the HKSAR government to dismantle Queen’s Pier and reassemble it at an as yet undecided location some years in the future. This allocation of funds will open the final door for the government to take apart Queen’s Pier; soon, construction workers will, with the assistance of police officers, fence off this important public space that Hong Kong citizens have enjoyed for fifty-three years and begin the dismantling procedure.
Before the HKSAR government again defends itself using “all necessary procedures were completed” as an excuse for dismantling the pier, we would like fellow Hong Kong residents to see what so-called procedures have actually taken place in the last six months:
1. “Overpowering, oppressive” procedures
The reason no LegCo member will petition against the destruction of Queen’s Pier in front of the LegCo Finance Committee, is because they are all extremely afraid of Donald Tsang. Over half of LegCo’s members have already demonstrated this fact through their actions in the working group of May 23rd: Once Donald Tsang personally makes an order, members will turn back on their principles and either abstain from voting, or avoid voting with ridiculous excuses such as having to “heed to the call of nature,” or to have to go for a hospital checkup. This “executive dominance” means Hong Kong residents will no longer dare to put their hopes on LegCo members, forcing the LegCo to once again fail the public trust.
2. “Accept only victories, deny any losses” procedure
Not all government procedures conducted in the past six months favored dismantling the Queen’s Pier. On May 9th, the Antiquities Advisory Board rated the Queen’s Pier as a highest first class historic building in a publicly broadcasted meeting. This rating, which reflects the desires of the Hong Kong public, would have required the government to “expend all efforts to preserve” the Pier. But following the rating, bureaucrats began a campaign to publicly deny the importance of the rating, claiming that this rating is irrelevant to both the decision to dismantle and to whether the Pier legally constitutes a historic building. To dismantle Queen’s Pier, Donald Tsang has sacrificed the public faith in the Antiquities Advisory Board, shaming the newly installed Board members.
3. “Self-contradictory” procedures
Near the end of May, the Home Affairs Bureau presented a discussion paper to the LegCo that clearly stated: “the Antiquities and Monuments Office has always taken executive measures to ensure that rated buildings will be preserved or protected in a way consistent with the building’s value.” It is the Antiquities and Monuments Office’s duty to ensure that rated building receive appropriate protection. But in dealing with preserving Queen’s Pier, the entire Home Affairs Bureau has consistently played dumb. The method proposed by Housing, Planning & Lands Bureau in March (i.e. prior to the Queen’s Pier receiving the rating of first class historic building), which involved dismantling and reassembly, will very likely lead Queen’s Pier to follow the footsteps of Murray House – which was downgraded to “no rating given” because of subsequent damage to infrastructure and detachment from its original contextual surroundings. Why has the Antiquities and Monuments Office been irresponsibly silent on this issue?
In the face of these ridiculous procedures, Action Here in HK and other civil society, professional and cultural bodies have, in the past six months:
– requested the government to publicly disclose the contents of its landfill contracts
– provided civil servants with alternative waterfront proposals that would preserve Queen’s Pier at its original location
– proposed that a public tendering/bidding process be used to make a request for proposals for preservation of Queen’s Pier from the engineer community
– persuaded and canvassed councilors
The perseverance of Hong Kong civil society has ignited Hong Kong People’s concern for democratization of conservancy issues and city planning. But the government remains defiant to our work –ever since the Star Ferry Pier movement, the government has continued to use public relation maneuvers and procedural violence to violate the will of the Hong Kong people. We have struggled against this tightly prescribed bureaucratic procedure until this day. We have already exhausted all the channels available from the establishment, and now we can be proud and justified in declaring: If the government treats civil society’s constructive proposals as if they are garbage, neither will civil society put up with dismantling decisions borne out of unjust procedures! The Queen’s Pier issue has not been resolved yet, despite what the government wants to think!
The violence of the bulldozers will follow the procedural violence. Star Ferry Pier met this fate and now Queen’s Pier has arrived at the same position. At this point in time, we have no choice but to engage in peaceful civil disobedience, to use our own bodies to defend one of Hong Kong last remaining important public buildings. Action Here in HK members have already guarded Queen’s Pier 24/7 round-the-clock for the last 47 days. Today, our operation will escalate – to show our determination, we will camp atop the Queen’s Pier, facing the open sea and our backs leaning against the City Hall.
We sincerely implore Hong Kong Residents who respect the city’s history, who treasure public space, to step forward at this critical time, to demonstrate the power of the people and to defy senseless destruction by the self-indulged HKSAR government! Donald Tsang can manipulate the LegCo and Antiquities Advisory Board like puppets. The only thing that can overcome him now is the perseverance and determination of the people.
Action Here in HK
June 12th, 2007.