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Government to declare Morrison Building a monument



The Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho, is initiating procedures to declare the Morrison Building at Hoh Fuk Tong Centre in Tuen Mun a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

This follows a recent decision by the Chief Executive in Council to dismiss the objection lodged by the owner of the building.

The Morrison Building was originally part of a villa built in 1936 by General Cai Tingjie (1892-1968), who led the Nineteenth Corps against the Japanese invasion. From 1946 to 1949, it was turned into the Dade Institute - a tertiary education institution founded under the directive of Chinese leaders Zhou Enlai and Dong Biwu. Many eminent Chinese scholars of the time lectured at the institute, nurturing a group of bright young intellectuals. The building bears witness to the unique role played by Hong Kong in the history of modern China and the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

The Government has been in discussions with the owner since June 2001 after learning of the owner's intention to redevelop the site in the hope that a mutually beneficial agreement that could protect the building as well as enable the owner to carry out any development proposal could be reached. However, no agreement was reached and the owner went ahead to apply for a demolition permit on March 1, 2003.

The building was declared a Proposed Monument on April 11, 2003, a move that protects it for 12 months against the owner's demolition plan. The declaration of a Proposed Monument is not renewable on private land.

On October 31, 2003, the Secretary for Home Affairs, in his capacity as the "Antiquities Authority" and on the advice of the Antiquities Advisory Board, served on the owner a notice of his intention to declare the building a monument for permanent protection. The owner then raised an objection to the Chief Executive.

"This is the first time that a privately owned building to be declared a monument under the ordinance without the consent of the owner," a Government spokesman said.

The area to be declared is about 1,250 square metres, comprising an area of about 480 square metres occupied by the building and a peripheral area of about 770 square metres, which provides access to the building from the outside of the Hoh Fuk Tong site.

The declaration will not affect property ownership. The owner has stated its intention to redevelop the Ho Fuk Tong site.

The Government spokesman said that because the area to be declared occupied only a small portion of the intended redevelopment area, the declaration should not prevent redevelopment in that area altogether.

"The Government will continue to maintain dialogue with the owner and render assistance as appropriate," the spokesman said. "The Government has also offered to bear the restoration and maintenance costs of the building after the declaration, provided that it will be open for public visits. There is also provision for the owner to seek compensation under the ordinance.

"The Government is committed to protecting important historical buildings," he said.

Ends/Thursday, March 18, 2004


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