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Conservation options that preserve our legacy

A year ago, independent archaeologists commissioned by the contractors of the Shatin to Central Link (SCL) project of the MTR Corporation Limited unearthed a square-shaped well (Well J5) dating from the Song and Yuan Dynasties at the To Kwa Wan Station works site in the Kai Tak Development Area, leading to widespread discussion in the community. With the discovery of other archaeological finds and remnants at the works site as construction began, there was growing concern about how the Government should preserve, study and display these valuable historical relics and remnants. Following studies conducted by the independent archaeological team and experts from the Antiquities and Monuments Office, we have recommended in-situ preservation for most of the remnants, which will enable the public to view and appreciate the rich historic and cultural heritage of Hong Kong.

The relics and remnants discovered at the SCL To Kwa Wan Station works site have a very high historic and cultural value. Some of them date back to the Song and Yuan Dynasties, while some are from more recent periods such as the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republican period, and even as late as the 1960s. These archaeological discoveries can help us understand the history and social development of Hong Kong and thus have important research and educational value. Apart from the aforementioned stone well (Well J5), we have also recommended the in-situ preservation of two other wells (Well J1 and J3), some stone  building structures, footpaths, the stone structure which formed the riverbanks of the former Ma Tau Chung and others. As for other archaeological finds such as ceramic shards, coins and remnants of organic wood parts, we have removed them from the site for conservation after special preservation treatment, or dismantled them after making detailed records. For other remnants including a stone well (Well J2) and a connecting water channel believed to be built in the early 20th century, as well as a stone structure unearthed at the works site of the pedestrian subway leading to Pak Tai Street, we intend to listen to your views before deciding on how to preserve them.

While we are proud and excited about such an important archaeological discovery, we still have a lot to do and must overcome the challenge of how to preserve and interpret the finds properly so as to enhance public understanding of Hong Kong’s history and culture in this important period. As mentioned in My Blog in April this year, one option worth considering is to undertake planning for Well J5 together with the proposed Sung Wong Toi Park in a holistic way. In fact, in response to the archaeological discoveries at the To Kwa Wan Station works site, we plan to expand the archaeological area to cover the north apron of the former airport near Prince Edward Road East and future Sung Wong Toi Park. If more archaeological finds are unearthed in future, we will consider other appropriate conservation options. In the long run, we may consider linking up the existing remnants of the South Gate of Kowloon Walled City, the remnants of Lung Tsun Stone Bridge and the archaeological finds at To Kwa Wan Station to set up a heritage trail in the area.

Regarding the remnants located in the central area of the future To Kwa Wan Station concourse, including a stone well (Well J2) and a water channel, as their location will affect the construction and future operation of the station, their conservation poses many technical difficulties. Having made reference to some heritage conservation cases overseas and on the Mainland, we have put forward a number of feasible conservation options. To facilitate informed discussions in the community, we have set out the various aspects for each option, such as the heritage impact, the construction risks involved, the social cost and financial commitment, the impact on the commissioning of the SCL, as well as whether the remnants could be displayed for public enjoyment. When considering which option to adopt so as to strike the best balance between conservation needs and public interest, financial implication is certainly not the only factor. The Government will give full consideration to your views. In deciding which option to adopt, I, as the Antiquities Authority, have to consider all the foregoing factors and views from various sectors, and listen carefully to the recommendations of the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB), particularly its considerations on the heritage value of the archaeological remains.

After we recommended that most of the remnants found at the To Kwa Wan Station works site should be preserved in-situ and suggested a number of conservation options for Well J2 and the water channel, we made presentations to the AAB and the Panel on Development of the Legislative Council and listened to their views. Members of the AAB have also inspected the remnants on-site and will hold another meeting this week. We believe that through rational and informed discussions we can eventually work out a conservation option that can properly conserve the remnants and also meet the public interest, so that these invaluable historical and cultural relics will be put on display and shown to the public through proper interpretation.

 

30 November, 2014

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