The Queen's Pier preservation campaign -- D-day

2007-07-31 - oiwan
|

Have been reporting about the Queen’s Pier preservation campaign but seldom put my own voices in my highly subjective and bias citizen reports. Tonight, I am going to camp at Queen’s Pier and wait for the police and construction workers to clear the site -- as it is the government planned D-day. Want to write down my reasons here before I leave for the pier.

Beginning from the Star Ferry Pier

At first it is the Star Ferry Pier preservation. The campaign was launched by some advocacy groups concerning with planning, environment and public space. Artists started to perform at the Star Ferry Pier since Aug 2006 to raise public concern about this disappearing space. By December 2006, one of inmediahk.net’s citizen reporters, Hoidick, decided to report on the demonstration. He was disappointed about the campaign and raised some questions in his report. Then there were some discussions about discursive and action strategy. Two days later, Hoidick wrote another report which revealed that the government had hidden some internal discussions within Antiquites Advisory Board about the value of the Pier and the expert warning of potential social discontent. The next day, I received an action call to form human chain for stopping the construction machine from entering the site. We finally forced into the construction campus and some of my friends stay in the campus for two days in order to buy time for the Legislative council to suspend the construction work.

However, police forced into the site while the Legislative council was still discussing about the issue. One of the activists Ho Loy was arrested and charged with criminal damage. I was then absent for a week in New Delhi for GVO's meeting. In that week, my friends have organized 48 hours hunger strike, demonstration and petition. However, the government gave order to crush the clock tower overnight and ship the stone in land fill area so there wouldn’t be any “false hope” . The public was outraged by the government brutal attitude.

Discovering Hong Kong

Why so brutal? In the process, inmediahk.net’s citizen reporters kept digging up new information concerning the demolition. And we entered an area which touches the core of the city social, economic, cultural and historical politics that materialized in spatial management.

The city economy since the 1980s has been driven by land and property market. The government and developers have developed very close partner relation over the years as land is a major source of income. Town planning and urban renewal bodies are giving services to corporate while neglecting public need. The central reclamation plan is an example of negotiated outcome between the government and various interest parties. For example, the idea of 400 meters long ground scrapping shopping mall has taken into the consideration of HSBC’s harbor view and the interest of International Financial Center’s campus as the mall would serve as an indoor gateway to the new Central commercial center even though it implies a large scale privatization of public space. The local landmark, the star ferry pier clock tower, then became an obstruction to be clear off.

Citizen reporters also dig out the government plan to build the People Liberation Army berth in the new waterfront -- an issue that local mainstream media are hesitated to raise while the government has been refusing to release the detail plan. However, one can imagine that the future of Central waterfront would be composed of four symbolic landmarks: IFC (the financial center), 400 meters ground scrapper shopping mall, government campus and People Liberation Army berth.

Where are the people and people’s public space? There is no consideration as there hasn’t been any public consultation except from the recent multiple choice kind of design consultation (in which the PLA berth is almost invisible and the ground scrapper is hidden by green vegetation).

Colonial and counter-colonial space

Pro-China nationalistic voices criticized the activists being pro-colonial as Queen’s Pier is a symbol of British rule. However, the post WW II harbour front space (the Queen Pier, City Hall and Star Ferry Complex), which signifies a localization process of colonial administrative power, has been a space for anti-colonial movement since the 1960s: the 1966 riot, Chinese Language Movement, and the Protect Daiyu Island movement, all took place in this colonial space.

In fact, the new generation of activists has carried on the social movement tradition and calls for a decolonialization process in Hong Kong via people’s participation in planning.

After 8 months of campaign, finally one government official decided to come to the pier to "discuss" and dialogue with the preservation activists. Last Sunday, the new head of Development Bureau, Carrie Lam, attended the Queen’s Pier public forum and announced that the government wouldn’t change its plan: No preservation in-situ, No promise of in-situ reinstatement, “No false hope”. According to the government plan, the police will be clearing this site tonight. See who has inherited the colonial mentality?

In the past 8 months (since the Star Ferry campaign), the local action activists had organized city tours, people’s planning consultations, social movement history sharing, demonstrations, music and dancing performances, forums, lobbying meetings and participated in government consultation, Legco discussion, public debates, etc. Last Friday, three of my friends started hunger strike; it has been going on for more than 90 hours now. They are in their twenties, but in their statement, they said they are striking for their children’s future – I am sure they have more stories to tell, stories that drive them to move on.

More background about the Star Ferry campaign can be found from the Coding Culture handbook chapter.

License