to keep bus terminal goes up a gear
CITY3| CITY| By Chloe Lai
South China Morning Post
The Tsim Sha Tsui bus terminal is
considered by many to be an ugly, messy blight on the landscape of no
historic value. The government believes the public would be better served
with a piazza in its place.
Leslie Chan Ka-long, 30, and thousands
of members of the Our Bus Terminal group are aware of those views but
they do not agree. They also know they lack the support of professionals
normally outspoken in the area of heritage preservation.
Yet their campaign is gaining momentum.
A Facebook group set up to represent
their views now boasts 8,000 members, seemingly swelled as heritage
preservation moves into mainstream consciousness - as witnessed by the
large protest against the proposed high-speed railway link to Guangzhou.
"This is very good news as we
know many regular people are behind our cause," Chan said.
The campaign to protect the Tsim
Sha Tsui Star Ferry bus terminus is set to escalate after conservationists'
success last week in preserving Wing Lee Street in Central.
Chan - well connected with the Central
and Western Concern Group that lobbied persistently for the preservation
of the street for years - said they were excited but nervous when the
Urban Renewal Authority offered to preserve all 12 buildings there.
Our Bus Terminal is lining up with
other young activists, including Green Sense and those who protested
against the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link last year,
to launch another round of protests. Chan said they were also lobbying
lawmakers and political parties.
The group has surveyed users of the
bus terminal to discover how well they know its history and whether
they are aware the government wants to turn it into a piazza.
Roy Tam, of Green Sense, said: "We
support the bus terminal campaign because the bus terminal is functioning
well and has great historic value to Hong Kong. We are unconvinced it
should be demolished."
A series of guided bus tours, travelling
between different places in Kowloon and the terminus, will be organised
over Easter to underline its importance to the public.
The government wants the terminus, which has stood since the 1920s,
to be replaced by a piazza. An open design competition is under way,
with results to be announced in the next two months. Officials have
stressed that most of the 14 bus routes using the terminus will not
be cancelled but will stop at a new terminal outside the Cultural Centre.
The Antiquities and Monument Office
has said the terminus has no heritage value.
However, Chan believes that the government
should respect the land use, and the people's right to use public space.
"If this place is turned into a piazza, only tourists, the rich
and the middle class can afford to enjoy it."
He said moving the terminus might
also affect ferry passengers and jeopardise ferry business.
The terminus, the Star Ferry pier
and Kowloon railway station have connected Tsim Sha Tsui with the rest
of Hong Kong and Guangzhou since the early 1920s. The pier and bus terminus
continue to function as a transport hub, bringing passengers to the
Star Ferry despite demolition of the railway station."We are not
arguing on the historic value of the terminus' physical structure, we
are talking about land use and the people's right to use space. The
United Nations calls this kind of land use historical urban landscape
and it should be preserved," Chan said.
Under the UN's Hanoi Declaration
announced last April, historical urban landscapes are a fundamental
and integral part of the environment of communities who live within
them or who have association with them. All policies relating to and
affecting historic urban landscapes should respect the lifestyle of
the community living and working within them.
Chan also said heritage in Kowloon
was severely neglected. "Most of the places that we fought to keep,
such as Queen's Pier, Central Police Station and Wing Lee Street, are
on Hong Kong Island. This terminus forms a key part of people's life
in Kowloon. Many historic events, including the 1967 riots, started
at this terminus."
The group's campaign started in 2008
after news of the piazza plan broke, with a petition at the time drawing
support from 5,000. They have also tried to get the terminus listed
as a Unesco-listed site. But they failed to get support from professionals,
with surveyors, architects and planners all ignoring their calls so
far. Chan said a few lawmakers had now expressed their support."I
know there is increasing speculation the terminus will be the next battleground
but I do not really like this suggestion," he said. "It suggests
we are a bunch of people looking for confrontation. We are not. We are
reasonable people and we hope the government will listen to us. Anyway,
it is good to see that we are finally getting some momentum now."