Beware the incoming Chief Secretary

June 21st, 2012 atam Posted in Building, Heritage | No Comments »

Advice for conservationists: if you want to win over Mrs Carrie Lam to your case, start putting across your case early.

Mrs Lam is no Mitt Romney; expect no flip-flops or U-turns from her. Once she’s decided on a course of action, her vision narrows and she will push it through against all opposition. It’s not that she doesn’t listen; it’s just that the extent to which she will listen depends mainly on two things: whether the case allows room for empathy on her part; and the kind of advice she hears first.

Hence, she supported the preservation of the street market in Wanchai, because she grew up in the area. She was also firm about saving Kin Yin Lei and some other heritage buildings, because after bulldozing, literally and metaphorically, through Queen’s Pier she woke up to the concept of heritage conservation and set about learning what she could about it. But, not being a property owner, she couldn’t relate to the anguish of minority owners who are deeply attached to their homes and live in fear of greedy developers, and gave the green light for lowering the threshold for compulsory sale from 90% to 80%.

Her hard-headedness enabled her to see the impossibility of continuing the small house policy, hence her efforts to get rid of it, but it also prevented her from seeing the value of conserving the West Wing on Government Hill. Demolishing West Wing contradicts her own new-found commitment to conservation, but someone must have impressed on her the value of the site, which, unlike the rest of Government Hill, sweeps right down into the heart of Central – long before conservationists started pleading their case.

Whether or not the next administration will cause a lot of conflict within society depends on whether concern groups understand Mrs Lam’s character enough to win her over before the developers and moneyed lobbies get to her first.

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