Respect heritage: Open up Government Hill
Open letter to Secretary for Justice by Government Hill Concern Group
In 2012 the government in response to demands from the community agreed to preserve the West Wing of the former Central Government Offices. Since then there have been strong calls for the removal of
all barriers to allow free passage to the public, but the government has yet to respond positively.
The complex has been entrusted to the Department of Justice, and, in a paper submitted by the Architectural Services Department for consideration by the Antiquities Advisory Board, it is stated that the DOJ still refuses to dismantle the barriers, and advises that the government intends to retain the current arrangements due to security concerns.
We deeply regret the decision of the Secretary for Justice as it is contrary to public expectations and international obligations:
Firstly, the community wants the public right of passage to Government Hill to be restored. It does not want the facility to be open only to a minority comprised of government officials. Government Hill, St.
John the Baptist Cathedral, the French Mission Building are community and tourist attractions. However the existing arrangement prohibits free passage between Albert Road and the heritage buildings, and hence is a severe erosion of public access rights.
Secondly, according to the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China 4.1.2, “As a general principle, except in cases in which a site needs to be closed for conservation purposes or in order to
facilitate scientific research, the site should be open and used for the public good. Prevention of harm to a site and safety of the public are the basic preconditions for the use and extent of public access”.
The 1997 decision to block public access to the site is in contravention of this principle.
Thirdly, the government’s own commissioned Heritage Impact Assessment report clearly states that the barriers erected in 1997 should be removed.
Fourthly , the current offices of the Department of Justice located at the Queensway Government Offices are open to the public with no barricades or special security measures in place. Therefore, the Department of Justice does not have any justification to insist on enhanced security at it new premises on Government Hill.
We call on the Department of Justice to review the decision, exercise good judgment and dismantle the barriers thereby fully respecting the public right to free passage.
We also request that the Antiquities Advisory Board recognize public expectations and urge the Secretary for Justice to follow the Heritage Impact Assessment guidelines to ensure the effective implementation of heritage conservation responsibilities.
Government Hill Concern Group
March 3, 2015
Note: ASD paper to AAB