With less than one month left before the government demolishes the famous Star Ferry pier in Central, some legislators and concern groups gathered at the landmark to stage their strongest protest yet.
Protesters from about 10 political parties and environmental groups assembled Sunday at the 48-year-old pier to collect signatures for a joint petition against the demolition.
Presenting a united front, members of the Civic Party, Democratic Party, Harbour-front Enhancement Committee, Hong Kong Institute of Architects, People's Sustainable Development Committee, Clear the Air, and Earth Care urged the public to fight for the preservation of the pier.
About 1,000 signatures were collected at the end of the day, with another 4,000 expected before the weekend, said district councillor and event organizer Cheng Lai-king. The petition will then be submitted to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and other senior officials.
The protest grabbed the attention of resident Cynthia Dickins, who moved to Hong Kong from Mexico City one year ago. She said she found the pier one of the most "endearing" aspects of the city.
"My stay is open-ended, depending on a number of factors. I want my kids to be in an environment with history," she said.
However, another passerby, an 80-year-old Hong Kong native who declined to be named, said he felt it was too late to save the pier. "They should have spoken up earlier. Now the government's plans are laid in stone. Of course, I have attachment to the pier, but the government has its own obligations to deal with," he said.
The beloved landmark, vacated last week by the ferry operator, will also be a hot debate topic in the chief executive elections, promised Civic Party vice president Albert Lai Kwong-tak.
The Civic Party, which has selected lawmaker-barrister Alan Leong Kah- kit to run for chief executive next March, has vowed to deliver a fiery debate on four issues - urban planning, environment, education and constitutional development.
Leong, who took a brief break from campaigning to attend Sunday's rally, said he has yet to visit the ferry's new terminal as it is "too far away."
And while the government has argued the pier has neither historical nor architectural significance, Institute of Architects vice president Vincent Ng Wing-shun warned that demolition will prove an "irreversible" mistake.
Completed in 1958, the pier was built at the height of the Modern Movement - an architectural trend lasting into the 1970s that emphasized functionalism and simple geometry. The movement was a reaction to earlier trends that stressed elegant decoration and pleasing motifs, as exemplified by the Legislative Council building.
Ng said the new terminal, which opened for service last week at the Central Ferry piers, incorporates too many details and motifs to be an accurate replication of the original pier.
Ng believes the old pier can be preserved if the government makes slight adjustments to the alignments of the proposed road, which will be constructed early next year.