LCQ2: King Yin Lei

Following is a question by the Dr Hon Yeung Sum and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (January 9):


On 15 September 2007, the Government declared King Yin Lei, a traditional Chinese-style mansion, and its garden as a proposed monument.  It is making an assessment on how the mansion is to be restored and studying the appropriate options to preserve the mansion.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the progress and outcome of the assessment on the damage done to the mansion and how it is to be restored, and when the assessment report will be published;

(b) whether it has considered acquiring, by purchase, transfer of plot ratio, land exchange or other means, the title of the mansion and the land concerned, so as to preserve the mansion permanently, and if it has discussed the matter with the owner or his representatives; if such consideration has been made and discussion has been held, of the preliminary result; and

(c) whether it will consider conducting public consultation and inviting suggestions from non-government organisations on how to permanently preserve and revitalise King Yin Lei, thereby enhancing public understanding of the mansion and its related history and culture?


Madam President,

Under Section 2A of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Cap. 53), I declared, in the capacity of Antiquities Authority, King Yin Lei (including the associated buildings and its garden) at 45 Stubbs Road as a proposed monument.  The declaration was gazetted in the form of a legal notice on 15 September 2007, with immediate effect for a period of 12 months.  The subsidiary legislation was passed by the Legislative Council under the negative vetting procedure.  The purpose of the declaration of the premises as a proposed monument is to prevent the building from being demolished immediately, to provide the Antiquities Authority with a period of 12 months to fully consider whether King Yin Lei should be declared as a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, and to discuss with the owner of the property feasible options for preservation during this period.  In the past three months, we have been taking relevant actions towards restoring and assessing the historic value of King Yin Lei as well as exploring feasible options for preservation.  

The three parts of the Question by Dr Hon Yeung Sum are now replied as follows-

(a) After the declaration of King Yin Lei as a proposed monument, the Antiquities and Monuments Office immediately inspected the building condition.  It was initially found that most of the decorations on the roof of the buildings and inside the buildings had been demolished, but the overall structure, layout and silhouette of the buildings remained intact.  As for the garden, except for some stone carved handrails and decorative lighting that had been demolished, the remaining parts (including carved fences and plants within the garden) were generally undamaged.  We published this preliminary report of the Antiquities and Monuments Office on 20 September 2007.

To further assess the extent of damage of King Yin Lei and to work out a restoration plan, we, under the recommendation of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, invited Professor Tang Guohua of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning of Guangzhou University to come to Hong Kong to conduct a site inspection at King Yin Lei.  Professor Tang is also the Head of Lingnan Architecture Research Centre of Guangzhou University as well as a member of the Expert Panel for Cultural Heritage Conservation of Guangdong Province.  According to Professor Tang's assessment, the roof, beams and columns, walls, floors, railings, staircases, doors and windows, etc. of the buildings had suffered damages to different extents, but the damages mainly appeared on the decorations and finishes.  The basic layout and structure of the buildings had not been damaged, and the foundation and base of the building complex were still safe.  Professor Tang considered that the damaged parts of King Yin Lei could be restored, and craftsmanship could be realised by studying the demolished elements and making reference to corresponding traditional craftsmanship, with a view to obtaining information on the original elements.  Based on the information on the original architectural appearance now in hand and current restoration techniques, Professor Tang reckoned that the original appearance of King Yin Lei could be restored up to 80% while its heritage value could be basically recovered.

We are now verifying and vetting the assessment report.  We will submit the report to the Antiquities Advisory Board for reference and make it public by the end of this month.

(b) In accordance with the new heritage conservation policy and in line with the announcement by the Chief Executive in his 2007-08 Policy Address on the direction to provide economic incentives to private owners to encourage heritage conservation, we are now exploring with the owner various feasible options for preservation of King Yin Lei. When considering economic incentives, we will explore the easiest way first, which is to find out whether there is space with development potential within the lot boundaries of King Yin Lei so as to make up for the loss of development rights of the owner due to the preservation of King Yin Lei (i.e. to carry out transfer of plot ratio within the existing lot boundaries).  A less preferable option is to find a suitable government site in the vicinity of King Yin Lei, and to consider granting that site to the owner for development through land exchange to make up for the loss.  As for the more difficult ways, they include identifying another lot outside of the existing lot boundaries of King Yin Lei or in another district to make up for the loss, or even cash payment to the owner in return for the property rights.

In the past three months, we had already held three meetings with the owner's representatives to explore the two easier options explained above (i.e. to identify space with development potential within the existing site or in adjoining sites to make up for the preservation of King Yin Lei).  In the light of the combined heritage value of the main building, garden and the respective layout of King Yin Lei, our initial view is that the option of trying to identify space within the lot of the existing buildings and the garden for development would affect the integrity of preservation, and hence do not seem to be a feasible option.  We are now actively studying with the owner's representatives the other option of identifying adjoining sites for development.

When making a decision on which option to adopt in the preservation of King Yin Lei, we will certainly assess the impact of such options on planning, vista and private property rights.  We will also consult the Antiquities Advisory Board and the Legislative Council, and carry out relevant town planning processes when necessary.  It is our goal to strike a proper and publicly acceptable balance between safeguarding the owner's legal private property rights and preserving historic buildings.

(c) At this stage, the priority of the Government is to deal with the restoration of King Yin Lei as well as issues on property rights and on making up for the loss, with a view to preserving the historic building.  After these issues have been properly resolved, the Administration will arrange for the preservation and revitalisation of King Yin Lei.  We understand the public's desire to enter into King Yin Lei for visit, and to enjoy its architecture and to learn about its history.  We will certainly steer the future preservation and revitalisation plans towards this direction.  For instance, by participating in the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme, we can breathe new life into King Yin Lei and open it up for public use in the spirit of adaptive reuse.

Ends/Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Issued at HKT 16:51