October 14, 2007
The 2007-08 Policy Address
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These past few weeks have been very busy. And, like most things in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out. In this case it was the annual Policy Address. This one was especially important because it was the first since my re-election, and the first for the Third Term SAR Government. So, I needed to set out Hong Kong's policy agenda, not just for the next year, but also for the next five years of this administration.
In the months leading up to the Policy Address, we reviewed our progress in the past decade since Reunification. We concentrated on how to develop Hong Kong over the next decade and beyond. We wanted to build on our existing and considerable strengths and launch a coherent package of pragmatic and achievable initiatives which will generate lasting and, sustainable benefits for the community. The whole exercise was hard work but also enlightening. It served to reinforce my confidence in Hong Kong's future.
One of our key decisions was to do more to protect, revitalise and re-use our built heritage. Over the past decade, people in Hong Kong have really developed a greater sense of belonging as well as a greater sense of confidence in the future. We have been thinking more about the type of society we want our kids and grandkids to live in. We have been thinking more about those things that are uniquely Hong Kong, that are part of our local culture, that make us who we are. This type of civic awakening has galvanised the government to respond in the most positive way. I personally treasure this development.
I grew up running around the grounds of the Police Married Quarters site in Hollywood Road and getting into trouble with my brothers. I like nothing more than popping into a "cha chaan teng" for a steaming bowl of "ngau laam fan" and a cup of "laai cha". So, I can relate to these sentiments and want to do more to meet people's rising expectations in this regard.
That's why I unveiled in my Policy Address a new, more inclusive approach to heritage and culture preservation.
For a start, we will establish a Commissioner for Heritage Office to provide a focal point for public participation and the government's preservation work. We will also require heritage impact assessments to be carried out on all government and public works involving historic and built heritage. And, we will look at how to maximise the economic and social benefits of revitalising heritage buildings. We don't just want to preserve buildings - we want them to become functioning, living parts of the community.
Many historical buildings belong to the government. So, I announced a new scheme that will invite non-government organisations to partner with us in revitalising these buildings. I really hope that we can transform these buildings creatively into new cultural landmarks. I have also set aside $1 billion to provide the financial support needed to make the scheme viable.
Protecting heritage should not only involve the government - we want NGOs, charitable organisations, individuals and the business community all to play a part.
We have initially identified seven buildings for revitalisation and adaptive re-use and will soon be calling for expressions of interest. These buildings could be transformed for use as exhibition galleries, hostels, academic institutions or community facilities. We're open to suggestions.
Before we formally launch the scheme, I am excited that one major revitalisation project has emerged, that will transform the Central Police Station Compound into a vibrant, iconic, cultural landmark. The Hong Kong Jockey Club, in its usual public spirit and innovation, has come up with such a proposal with a pledged donation of $1.8 billion. We have accepted this in principle and will engage the public in its design over the next six months. I am sure historic buildings like the Mei Ho House, which is Hong Kong's first public housing estate, and the Lui Seng Chun, will likely be given a new lease of life.
I share many conservationists' view that preservation of local culture and heritage should go beyond individual buildings. I have therefore announced a few initiatives that will add this new dimension to our work.
We will preserve the open air bazaars in Wan Chai and, together with the Urban Renewal Authority, take a holistic approach in revitalising the older parts of Wan Chai. We have removed the former Police Married Quarters site in Aberdeen Street from the Application List for sale so that the community will have a chance to put forward revitalisation proposals.
We will also do more to promote the protection of privately-owned heritage buildings. We will consider economic incentives for private owners of both declared monuments and graded historic buildings and we'll also offer financial support to help with the maintenance of privately-owned historic buildings.
Hong Kong's gleaming and iconic skyline is a testament to our progress and development as a unique society and vibrant economy. If we want to remain at the forefront of global cities, we have to ensure that our physical infrastructure matches international standards and expectations.
At the same time, the blend of East and West defines the character of our city. The different styles of architecture, the mix of Chinese and colonial-era buildings, the structures that represent different eras of development are all part of our charm, appeal and history.
So, in the next five years we'll press ahead with a new model of heritage preservation that will not only help us protect our historical buildings, but also make these buildings 'living history' that can add to our quality of life.
| Donald TSANG Yam-kuen,