Thursday, September 18, 2014   




Legal wins it all in Central

Beatrice Siu

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Government Hill will be turned into Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuens legal empire.

The decision follows public support for preserving the former Central Government Offices on Government Hill comprising the Main, East and West wings.

But the government has abandoned plans to conserve the historical Ho Tung Gardens on The Peak, with the Chief Executive in Council declaring it is not a monument.

The East and Main wings of the former government offices have already been entrusted to the Department of Justice, which will move several sections to the complex in early 2015, while the others remain at its current address in Queensway Government Offices in Admiralty.

It was earlier suggested the West Wing be redeveloped into a commercial block, and the government decision to preserve it ends months of dispute.

In June, the Antiquities Advisory Board voted for grading Government Hill.

Bernard Charnwut Chan, who cast his vote for Grade 2 at the critical moment, was criticized for standing in line with the Development Bureau. He decided to resign from the board.

With yesterdays decision, the entire office space will house the secretary for justice and law-related non-government organizations.

Yuen welcomed the decision, saying the Admiralty offices are insufficient and that nearby offices have to be rented.

The move will help improve efficiency while saving up to HK$15 million in rent, he said. It shows the governments respect for the legal system and legal work.<
p>Yuen said the decision to preserve the old offices is not raising a white flag to NGOs pressing for conservation.

It will also help international legal, mediation and arbitration agencies to set up offices in Hong Kong. This will further enhance Hong Kongs competitiveness as a regional legal center, as well as the center of international arbitration and mediation in the Asia-Pacific, Yuen said.

The Law Society of Hong Kong welcomed the governments decision, saying that turning it into a landmark symbolizing the legal system in Hong Kong is meaningful.

Chan, who is also an Executive Council member, welcomed preservation of the West Wing, adding that it should not be for commercial use.

The grading of Government Hill has been controversial, with many hoping it would be declared a Grade 1 historic site.

Government Hill Concern Group convener Katty Law Ngar-ning said some parts of the West Wing should be preserved for public use, such as a library.

Meanwhile, the decision to abandon Ho Tung Gardens clears the way for the owner of the 1927 mansion to tear down what experts see as an important example of Chinese renaissance architecture.

The owner had objected to several government plans to protect the site. Ho Min-kwan originally planned to redevelop the gardens into 12 flats.

Former secretary for development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had temporarily declared the gardens a monument.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said preserving Ho Tung Gardens would lead to huge legal fees while compensation was estimated at HK$3 billion.

The Development Bureau will now review its policies on old private buildings, including the extent of historical value and the amount of compensation, when considering preservation, he said.


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