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The preservation campaign at the Queen's Pier has already become a miracle in Hong Kong history. The activists have occupied the Queen's Pier for more than two months to fight for in situ preservation, and the whole campaign has lasted for 7 months since last December. For a pessimistic and materialistic society like Hong Kong, the campaign is really incredible and hard to imagine. Last night, on the big day of 10th anniversary of reunification, it set another record in creating a mass civil disobedient act.
At noon, the police started to use hundreds of iron bars to seal off the pier from public access. Protesters refused to leave and decide to urge citizens to enter the pier for enjoying the firework. Many were hesitated and remained at the old star ferry car park. A few hundreds decided to walk through the iron bar maze and entered the Queen's Pier. There, they enjoy the best spot for the firework, together with story telling, street drama performance, drum music and street dancing.
The scene was out of the police's imagination. Their plan was to seal off the queen's pier and their baseline for negotiation was to allow a few protesters to stay at the pier. Pro-preservation politicians were trying to bargain with police along the line. However, activists insisted to open the pier to the public: come to queen's pier for firework!
For me, last night was the best July 1 celebration that I have ever experienced. The spot was really great as the firework was right in front. However, the best part was the street drama performance and the street dancing.
As the un-democratic legislative council had approved the financial budget for the removal of the pier, many found the demolition inevitable and decided to compromise (accept the government's so-called relocation plan). However, the activists in queen's pier have elevated their action and decided to fight for the grade 1 heritage until the last minute. The Queen's Pier campaign has gone beyond preservation to issues regarding procedural justice and future planning of the waterfront, which symbolizes a collusion of the government (government new office), corporate (giant shopping malls) and military force (people's liberation army pier).
The government has intentionally deferred the demolition to prevent confrontation before the July 1 celebration, now that it has passed, the campaign will probably have to face more brutal action from the government.
Q1: Queen’s Pier is a symbol of colonialism. What is the value of it when sovereignty of Hong Kong had long been returned to China?
Ans.: Queen’s Pier is without doubt a symbol of colonialism. The first Queen’s Pier was built in 1925, located along the same axis with the (Queen’s) Statues Square. It had been where the largest colonial landing ceremony since the ceding of Hong Kong took place. Queen’s Pier in its present form was built in 1953, at the time when the colonial government launched reclamation projects for real estate development. The venue for landing ceremony was subsequently relocated to the newly built City Hall complex. In a sense, the imminence of colonial monarchy rule gave way to a modernist architectural style that emphasizes simplification of form and utilitarian pragmaticism. Facing the main entrance of City Hall, itself a kind of citizen space, the current Queen’s Pier is also considered a marker of government's turn to cooptive politics. The whole spatial cluster thus epitomizes the colonial political history of Hong Kong. Through this space, we can make sense of the past, and this space would serve as coordinates in creating our institutions and histories.
As a symbol of colonialism, Queen’s Pier is also a space of people’s resistance and struggle. People of Hong Kong had made much creative subversion against symbolism of colonial rule. For instance, early in 1960s, a local Chinese newspaper adopted a punning headline with explicit sexual overtones “21 Bangs Escort the Royal Sister Crossing Seas,” just so to tease the visiting Princess Margaret who was to land ceremoniously on Queen's Pier. At their central location in the city, Queen's Pier together with (old) Star Ferry Pier nearby had been major site of civil resistances. The Diaoyutai Movement in the 1970s, for instance, had made Queen’s Pier a place of assembly. It has been continuously a gathering and assembly place for many anti-imperialist, anti-war and social justice resistances and happenings. The movement for the preservation of piers that sparked last year is also bringing new meanings to the locale.
Q2: Has not the government taken up its responsibility of conservation, promising to “dismantle and relocate” Queen's Pier?
The government’s original proposal of “dismantle and relocate” and its variants are no longer applicable, as Queen’s Pier has been graded by AAB as a “Grade 1 Historic Building.” In accordance with principles of conservation adopted world-wide, the very pre-requisite of conserving architecture of substantial historic value is to conserve in-situ with minimal permitable changes to make.
The government knows too well that to dismantle and relocate Queen’s Pier will drastically reduce its historic value. Murray House is the worst case ever of similar kind. It was a “Grade 1 Historic Building” at its original site in Admiralty. Dismantled and relocated to Stanley, the re-assembling of Murray House involved many changes of design; it is also removed from its original context. Murray House in Stanley is no longer graded by AAB as Historic Building. AAB is appointed by the Chief Executive, the committee has graded Queen’s Pier as a “Grade 1 Historic Building.” And yet, governmental departments are presently gearing towards a “conservation” method that would predictably downgrade, or degrade the pier's historic value. Do we want such a ruin of the people's heritage?
Not only the Queen’s Pier should be preserved in-situ, City Hall's spatial and architectural complex, as a public space accumulated creatively by the people over 50 years, has to be preserved in-situ in its entirety. This is not just about preservation of an isolated area. It is, more importantly, to address the significance of this public space as basis and core consideration in the planning of Central's new coastal reclamation area. Any planning in future should observe, respect and rely on how people of Hong Kong has already shaped and accommodated the uses of spaces and their own livelihood.
Q3: Is not relocating Queen’s Pier to the new harbor front and continuing its function as a pier the best way to preserve it? Will not preservation in-situ turn Queen’s Pier into a wayside pavilion?
Ans.: As mentioned, the significance of Queen’s Pier is mainly determined by the symbolic meanings of the whole cluster of architectures. Queen's Pier would be just another ordinary pier when it is to remove from its original context, particularly its spatial relation with the architectural complex as a whole. We certainly want to preserve Queen’s Pie's at the harbor coast, but it is not probable to override the whole reclamation project. On the other hand, preserving Queen’s Pier in-situ is not necessarily turning it into a wayside pavilion. Architects have suggested technically feasible proposals of building an artificial lake in front of the Pier. This will accommodate the underlying pipe works for rain water drainage, and to provide a multi-purposed leisure place for people as well.
[Please refer archetects' proposal on Pg. 4]
Q4: Would not the preservation of Queen’s Pier in-situ affect P2 road, drainage pipe, MTR U-turn passage as well as the future MTR North Island Line?
Ans.: Road experts have pointed out unreasonable and unrealistic aspects of the government's P2 road plan; specifically in its reservation of a 40m wide area for a 4-lane road. It is noteworthy that even Connaught Road in Central, a 6-lane road, measures less than 40m in width. Should the government modify P2 Road in accordance with a normal 4-lane road's requirement of 20 – 26m in width, the (old) Star Ferry Pier site and Queen’s Pier will not be impacted. The government has, reluctantly when pressed by many sides, admitted that modifying P2 Road poses no critical problem, and it will not delay the reclamation project as government sources previously claimed.
As found, MTR Airport Express's U-turn passage tunnel and North Island Line are not covered in the present reclamation phase III contracts. Up to this moment, MTR Corporation does not have any concrete plan to build a 460m long U-turn passage tunnel, nor a North Island Line. In fact, there is a notable divergence between estimated and actual population distribution over past 10 years, the number of passengers taking Airport Express has been continuously dropping. Less people are living on Hong Kong Island as well; this does not warrant MTR to build another line across Hong Kong Island. We believe that whether it is necessary to dismantle and relocate Queen’s Pier at all, should be put to discussion only after MTR has make its decision on the mentioned constructions. Whether the North Island Line is to be built is on agenda no sooner than 2016.
Architects have also put forward a rain drainage design in a box-shape, which would leave Queen's Pier untouched in accommodating drainage utilities. This proposal is presently pending governmental approval. [Please refer to Pg. 4]
Q5: Has not the government done a public consultation in April on the preservation of Queen's Pier, and put forward 4 variants of the “dismantle and relocate” proposal for discussion? Why not let people's will decide on the future of Queen’s Pier?
Ans.: The consultation as it was done by the government can best regard as a forgery. All 4 proposals premised upon non-existing “technical issues” to establish the solutions of “dismantle and relocate” as necessary. Options to preserve in-situ, not to dismantle and not to relocate, are ruled out and are not available for public considerations in the first place. The entire consultation document fails to foreground Queen’s Pier's historic significance and, in particular, its spatial dynamics with the cluster of architectures nearby and around it. The public had been side-tracked to a form of “beauty contest” in expressing their opinions in favor. The results obtained from such consultation are manipulative outcomes and the consultation itself is not respectful to the public.
Q6: What is the difference between “preservation in-situ” and “relocation in-situ”? Would not relocation in-situ retain the cluster's characteristics as well?
Ans.: New construction projects should make way for architectures with substantial historic value; this is to pay our respect to history. Suppose it is HSBC Tower blocking a new project in plan, most of us would find it ridiculous to first dismantle HSBC tower, and relocate it in-situ afterwards. Why are we conscious of protecting a private property, but not at the same time paying similar respect in regards to historic and cultural heritage collectively owned by our society?
More importantly, many architects and engineers have expressed their confidence about the industry's capabilities and competence to provide solutions to the issue if the government was to invite open tenders for works preserving Queen’s Pier in-situ. Yet the government refused to disclose project details with the excuse of breaching “business confidentiality.” It has never been a matter of possibility, or technical feasibility in preserving the Queen’s Pier in-situ, rather, it is whether or not the government is willing to co-operate with the people.
Q7: What can I do if I want to help preserving Queen’s Pier in-situ?
1. Circulate and distribute this leaflet, to expose government's lies by letting more people know.
2. Translate this leaflet into different languages and dialects, and to deliver and circulate via different means at your disposal. Let others who live in different places or communities know how government of Hong Kong debases people's histories, cultures and heritages.
3. Come visit Queen’s Pier, make use of this place in ways you and your friends and family feel comfortable, share the joys and funs in creating a public space
4. Take notice of news about Central's reclamation project phase III, and to help watch over the government's doings.
5. Leave us your email address or other ways of contacts, or send an email to email@example.com; you will be updated on news of Queen’s Pier and reclamation project of Central. (Your contacts will not be disclosed to any third party, nor would be used to any other purpose without your expressed consent)
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