Statement by Secretary for Development

Regarding the indication today by the Chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, Mr Bernard Charnwut Chan, that he would resign from the chairmanship of the Board, the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, made the following statement today (June 18):

"I feel very sorry to have received an e-mail from Mr Chan this morning indicating that he would resign from the chairmanship of the Antiquities Advisory Board. I have already appealed to him to stay on as Chairman of the Board, and hope that he will reconsider it."

"The Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) is the only statutory advisory body set up under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. It plays an extremely important role in heritage conservation work. Under the leadership of Mr Chan, the AAB has been holding its deliberations on historic buildings in a highly transparent and open manner. Its work is widely recognised by the community and conservation groups."

"Over the past five years, Mr Chan has been fully dedicated to heritage conservation work. He is fair, open and impartial in carrying out his chairman's duties. When dealing with the grading of the West Wing of the former Central Government Offices this time, the AAB has followed its established procedures in arranging the discussions and all its members have been provided with opportunities to indicate their individual grading intentions. There has been no biasness at all."

"As a matter of fact, since a certain conservation group has raised questions on Mr Chan, the majority of the other AAB members have confirmed that Mr Chan had handled the deliberation and voting on the grading of the West Wing in a fair and just manner and that there was no procedural impropriety. Some members have also confirmed that their decisions had not been influenced by the Government and that, indeed, no pressure whatsoever had been exerted on them by the Government."

"I would like to point out that the heritage conservation policy and measures often involve controversial community issues and meet with objections from conservation groups. As an independent and unbiased advisory body, the AAB has been impartial in providing advice to the Government. If some members of conservation groups are dissatisfied with a certain voting intention of the AAB and make unreasonable accusations and criticisms against the Chairman and its members, the deliberations at the AAB would become irrational. In the long term, I am concerned that this would deter individuals within the community who have a passion for or expertise in heritage conservation from expressing their views. This would deprive the Government and the public of the opportunity to listen to their independent, professional advice when considering such issues in future. I am deeply worried."

Ends/Monday, June 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 21:18