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LCQ5: King Yin Lei

Following is a question by the Hon Yeung Sum and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (October 24):

Question:

In mid September this year, demolition works were carried out at King Yin Lei, a traditional Chinese-style mansion at 45 Stubbs Road, Wan Chai, which aroused the grave public concern about the current work on heritage conservation. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has assessed the impact of the damage done to King Yin Lei on its future grading and conservation; if it has, of the results;

(b) given that an expert panel under the Antiquities Advisory Board has been conducting a heritage assessment of some 1 400 buildings with historic value in Hong Kong since March 2005, which of these buildings have not been graded as historic buildings and the reasons for that, which buildings are being graded or pending grading, please list such buildings by the districts in which they are located; of the number of items assessed by the panel each year, as well as the measures to expedite the current progress of heritage assessment;

(c) whether the authorities have examined which of the graded historic buildings that have not been declared as monuments have strong justifications for being classified as "sites of cultural heritage", so that they can be protected under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap.499); if they have, of the results (including details of the justifications); and

(d) of the means through which the authorities will assess non-building heritage (for example, the boundary stones of the Victoria City), so that such heritage can be permanently preserved?

Reply:

Madam President,

(a) According to the initial site inspection by the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO), most of the Chinese roof tiles and ornaments in the interior have been taken down. But the building's structure, layout plan and form remain intact. The lintels, brackets and Chinese architectural decorations have also been dismantled, with the building form and structure preserved. However, part of the stone railings and balustrades has been removed. The remaining sections (including balustrades with decorative carvings) are largely intact.

AMO has initiated a feasibility study for the restoration of King Yin Lei. A task force comprising local and mainland conservation experts will be formed under AMO. AMO will consider the results of the study and undertake a comprehensive assessment of King Yin Lei's historical and architectural merits. AMO will also consider, with regard to the assessment, whether or not it should recommend to the Antiquities Authority declaration of the building as a monument under section 3(1) of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

On the other hand, King Yin Lei's owner has informed the Government of his intention to restore the mansion by his own means provided that no infringement of his legal property right would be incurred. The owner also welcomes the Government or experts to propose and introduce to him restoration plans, hoping that the historical appearance of the mansion will be restored as far as possible.

(b) At present, some 1400 historic buildings are being assessed by an expert panel appointed by the Antiquities Advisory Board. About 900 of the 1400 historic buildings are yet to be accorded a grading. Since most of the buildings are held in private hands, we consider it inappropriate to release the list of the buildings in public for the time being. We are studying with the expert panel on the possibility of expediting the assessment. It is hoped that the assessment would be completed within 2008. Before that, however, AMO has established administrative measures, through which the approving departments will consult AMO on government and non-government demolition or development proposals which may affect the buildings under review. These measures will provide the buildings with proper protection.

(c) The Government has studied whether or not graded historic buildings should be classified as "sites of cultural heritage" and hence be protected under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance. However, after detailed deliberations, we have come to the view that the identification process would be extremely complex involving debates on the sites identified, the identification criteria, the gazetting of the identified sites, and the handling of appeals or objections from private owners if affected. The site identification may also render some private owners feeling aggrieved with the decision on having their properties included in the list or by those who consider a specific heritage site should be included in the list but has not been so included. Hence, we do not recommend to pursue this for the time being.

(d) For declared monuments of non-building type, the Antiquities Authority can consider their preservation pursuant to the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, with reference to AMO's assessment and AAB's recommendations. Besides, proper protection can be made through administrative measures. Taking the six stones already identified as the boundary stones of the City of Victoria as an example, administrative measures have been in place to protect them which are situated on government land and are of historical value, albeit they are not declared monuments. Under the existing administrative measures, the project proponents of any government or non-government works which may affect the boundary stones are required to consult AMO. The measures will offer proper protection to them.

Ends/Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Issued at HKT 16:00

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