It was heart wrenching to see the clock tower perched atop the pier being torn down.
When I was a high school student, the Hong Kong City Hall, which is situated next to the pier, was the cultural hub and housed the largest public library then in Hong Kong. I passed by the pier a lot, as a result, on the way to the library or to see arts performance.
As time goes by, Cultural Centre at Tsim Sha Tsui becomes the cultural hub, along with the Arts Museum, Space Museum there. I used to take the star ferry from Central to arrive at the Cultural Centre and the Tsim Sha Tsui area.
The star ferry at Central was part of my fond memories of my growing up and living in Hong Kong in general.
Now the pier is gone. Many things surrounding its being torn down make me fume.
First of all, the star ferry company said that the clocktower at the ferry must be demolished because it could not find a company able to replace its parts. A big lie.
According to a report from South China Morning Post, Melvyn Lee, a director of Thwaites and Reed, the clock-making company that maintains London’s Big Ben, admits that he can help. The British company restores clocks all over the world – in Australia, the United States, India and former British colonies that have English clocks. And Mr Lee even promised to visit Hong Kong and help save the clock.
Second, shouldn’t those decision makers in the Hong Kong Office of Antiquities and Monuments be held accountable for the demolition of the pier? They are the ones being put in charge of protecting Hong Kong’s monuments. The irony is that these people only started to voice out their opinion when the demolition work was already underway. What is their brilliant opinion? The government should try to move part of demolished bricks and walls to another site to recover the clocktower.
If the policy-decision makers in the Office of Antiquities and Monuments can come up with this brilliant idea, what hope can I still hold out for the preservation of Hong Kong’s past and history? Their ideas echo those of the government who said that it will recruit a consultancy firm (yes, when there is problem, the Hong Kong government always has one way to deal with it – pay a huge sum of money to recruit a consultancy firm to conduct research) and see how the look of the old pier can be incorporated into the new pier. And may I mind you that the government said this when it was faced with mounting pressures to stop demolition, so you can regard this as kind of concession from the government.
I reckon that it is not difficult to come to grasps with the idea that when a monument or historic spot be demolished or removed, it is doomed, completely. The replica of it at somewhere else, or in a museum, is a sign of history, but not history itself, because it is no longer part of people’s life, their collective memory and history. The replica will attract tourists, but not the people living in this territory.
The idea is easy to grasp, but it seems that those decision makers fail to see it.