The Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) was consulted today (October 24) on the subject. Members unanimously supported the intended declaration in view of the significant heritage value of Ho Tung Gardens.
Under Section 3 of the Ordinance, the Antiquities Authority, after consultation with the AAB and with the approval of the Chief Executive, and by notice in the Gazette, may declare any place, building, site or structure which the Antiquities Authority considers to be of public interest by reason of its historical significance to be a monument.
A spokesman for the Development Bureau said that Ho Tung Gardens has high heritage value. Ho Tung Gardens is the only remaining residence directly related to Sir Robert Ho Tung, who was a prominent community leader and the first non-European to receive permission from the then Hong Kong Government to reside in the Peak area. Ho Tung Gardens is also an early example, and probably the earliest surviving example, of Chinese Renaissance architecture in Hong Kong. It is a rare historic building worthy of preservation.
Ho Tung Gardens was declared a proposed monument under the Ordinance on January 28, 2011, when the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) was alerted to the owner's plan to demolish the building and redevelop the site. That declaration provided Ho Tung Gardens with 12 months of statutory protection while allowing more time for the Antiquities Authority to consider in a more comprehensive manner whether or not Ho Tung Gardens should be declared a monument on a permanent basis under the Ordinance.
Two consultancies by renowned scholars were subsequently commissioned by the AMO to fully assess the heritage value of Ho Tung Gardens. These were a heritage assessment study jointly undertaken by Dr Victor Zheng and Professor Wong Sui-lun, who are recognised scholars on the history of the Ho Tung family, and an architectural appraisal jointly undertaken by Dr Lynne DiStefano, Dr Lee Ho-yin and Mr Curry Tse of the Architectural Conservation Programme of the University of Hong Kong. Both studies have further established the outstanding heritage significance of Ho Tung Gardens.
"The Government fully respects private property rights and recognises the need for economic incentives in order to encourage and enable private owners to preserve historic buildings. Since the declaration of Ho Tung Gardens as a proposed monument, the Secretary for Development has personally met with the owner of Ho Tung Gardens and her representatives on several occasions to explore options for preservation," the spokesman said.
The Development Bureau has kept the owner of Ho Tung Gardens informed of the latest developments.
"We will continue to engage the owner with sincerity and hope to come up with a pragmatic solution that will strike the right balance between heritage preservation and respect for private property rights and is in the overall public interest," the spokesman added.
Having received AAB's support, the Antiquities Authority will, in accordance with the Ordinance, serve a notice to the owner on the Authority's intention to declare the Gardens a monument. The required approval of the Chief Executive will then be sought with a view to completing the monument declaration process before the 12-month proposed monument limit expires on January 27, 2012.
Full reports of the two consultancies mentioned above can be obtained from www.amo.gov.hk/en/antiquities_meetings_paper.php.
Ends/Monday, October 24, 2011
Issued at HKT 19:22