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Government has initiated action to declare Morrison Building a Monument

The Secretary for Home Affairs has initiated action to declare the Morrison Building in Tuen Mun a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, a Government spokesman said today (October 31).

A notice under Section 4 of the Ordinance today was served on the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China, the owner of the Morrison Building, as one of the statutory procedures needed to declare the building, a monument for permanent protection.

"The building, which is part of the Hoh Fuk Tong Centre, 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 spokesman said.

The Morrison Building was originally part of a villa built in 1936 by General Cai Tingjie (1892-1968), who led the Nineteen Corps against the Japanese invasion. It was used for tertiary education by the Dade Institute, founded under the directive of Chinese leaders Zhou Enlai and Dong Biwu, from 1946 to 1949. Many eminent Chinese scholars of the time lectured at the institute, nurturing a group of young intellectuals.

The building was declared a proposed monument on April 11, a move that protected it for 12 months against the owner's demolition plan, which was submitted to the Building Authority earlier this year. The declaration of a proposed monument is not renewable on private land.

The Government has been negotiating with the owner on the preservation of the Morrison Building. However, no agreement could be reached.

"It was necessary to consider declaring the building a monument because the owner may apply again for a demolition permit once the proposed monument status expires. Failing to save the building from demolition would mean an irrevocable loss of our cherished heritage," the spokesman said.

As the statutory procedures to declare the building a monument will require several months to complete, the Government has to start the declaration process now. It will not affect the owner's appeal against the earlier declaration of proposed monument, which the owner has lodged and is being handled by the relevant authority.

The Antiquities Advisory Board has been consulted and supported the intended declaration.

Once it is served with the Section 4 notice, the owner may object by petition to the Chief Executive against the intended declaration, and the Chief Executive in Council is the final authority for giving directions. If a declaration of monument is eventually made under Section 3, the declaration will be vetted by the Legislative Council as subsidiary legislation. There is a compensation provision under Section 8 of the Ordinance. The Government is also willing to bear the conservation and maintenance costs of the building after the declaration, provided it will be open for public visits.

The ownership of the property will not be affected by the declaration and it can use, and pursue redevelopment of, the Hoh Fuk Tong site provided that the declared monument is preserved in-situ. The area intended for declaration covers only a very small portion of the owner's previously proposed redevelopment site.

"The Government is committed to protecting important historical buildings" the spokesman said.

Ends/October 31, 2003

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