Provisional LegCo Panel on
Broadcasting, Culture and Sport

Heritage Preservation and Conservation


This paper informs Members of Government's work in the preservation and conservation of cultural heritage.



2.The Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Chapter 53) (the Ordinance) came into operation in 1976 to provide the statutory framework for protecting Hong Kong's heritage. The Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport is the Antiquities Authority charged with the responsibility to implement the Ordinance through the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO). He does so on the advice of the statutory Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB).

Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB)

3. The AAB is a group of experts and professionals appointed by the Chief Executive under section 17 of the Ordinance. They comprise archaeologists, architects, historians and planners, whose unbiased, independent and expert advice the Authority must seek before he decides to declare any heritage item as a monument. In cases where the Board advises that a heritage item merits preservation, the Antiquities Authority may, in the interest of the public and with the approval of the Chief Executive, declare it a monument under the Ordinance. The Antiquities Authority is empowered to prevent alterations, or to impose conditions upon any proposed alterations as he thinks fit, in order to protect the monument. Owners and lawful occupiers aggrieved by any of the Authority's acts are, under the Ordinance, allowed avenues for redress and objection by way of petition to the Chief Executive or the Chief Executive-in-Council.

4.To protect Hong Kong's archaeological and palaeontological heritage, the Antiquities Authority is also empowered to regulate the search for and excavation of relics through a system of licensing. All such relics are the property of the Government under the law and licences are only issued to those who have sufficient scientific training and experience and the necessary resources to conduct such work.

5.It is a criminal offence for any person to excavate or search for antiquities without a licence or to demolish, deface or carry out any work on a declared monument without a permit from the Antiquities Authority.

Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO)

6. The Office provides policy and executive support to both the Antiquities Authority and the AAB, and is part of the Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Bureau of the Government Secretariat. The tasks of the Office consist mainly of :-

    -identifying, recording and researching items of historical interest;

    -organizing and co-ordinating surveys and excavations of areas of archaeological significance;

    -organizing the protection, restoration and maintenance of monuments;

    -assisting the Authority in implementing his other legal functions, such as the granting of licences and permits;

    -fostering public awareness of Hong Kong's heritage through education and publicity programmes; and

    -providing secretariat support to the Lord Wilson Heritage Trust whose objects are also to preserve, conserve and promote Hong Kong's human heritage.

It is headed by an Executive Secretary and comprises professional staff organized into teams dealing with archaeology, historical buildings, and education and publicity.

Work in Heritage Protection

7.Government aims to preserve and conserve Hong Kong's archaeological and historical heritage, as well as to promote public awareness and support of it. Our work falls into three broad areas which are detailed below.


8.AMO maintains a comprehensive record of archaeological sites in Hong Kong. Through administrative arrangements with the planning, lands and works departments, all developments affecting these sites are brought to the attention of AMO at the planning stage. AMO will assess the impact of such developments on the archaeological sites and, where possible, seek their preservation. If preservation of these sites does not prove feasible, AMO will arrange for appropriate mitigation measures to salvage maximum data and archaeological material from the sites prior to the redevelopment, ranging from monitoring of the development works to the conducting of rescue excavations.

9. Over the past two years, 13 rescue excavations have been organized. The most notable example is the rescue operation in Tung Wan Tsai on Ma Wan Island. The developer contributed $2.87M and allowed sufficient time for the joint team from the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing and the AMO to salvage maximum data before building on site commenced. At the conclusion of the excavation in November 1997 we unearthed, for the first time, a total of 21 late New Stone Age (circa 3500 - 4000 BP) burials, of which 15 contained human skeletal remains still in fairly good condition, thus allowing an invaluable insight into the ancient population of Hong Kong and of South China.

Historical Buildings

10. We protect and preserve distinguished Chinese and Western buildings by declaring or deeming them as monuments and, where necessary, repair and restore them. To date, 65 items have been declared as monuments and 8 items have been deemed. A list of declared and deemed monuments is at Annex A. Of the 65 items, 26 are of Western type architecture, and 18 are traditional Chinese structures. All the 8 deemed monuments and 14 Chinese structures are in private or clan ownership. Among the most notable successes in recent years are the declaration of the former Marine Police Headquarters, the Helena May, Government House, St John's Cathedral, the Yamen in the former Kowloon Walled City and Tang Chung-ling Ancestral Hall.

11.Apart from the statutory protection of important monuments, buildings of historical significance are identified and rated according to a 3-tier grading system. This list is also constantly updated and circulated to all relevant departments from time to time, so that prior consultation with the AMO and AAB is carried out before any development or planning schemes which might affect these buildings are implemented.

Education & Publicity

12. Our efforts in heritage education are to promote public awareness and support of local heritage and heritage conservation, secure public access and improve visitor facilities to restored monuments, and develop a heritage education strategy. Workshops, seminars, lectures, guided visits and exhibitions are frequently held for youth groups, students and teachers. For the community at large, we also organize major popular events to arouse their interest. The Ping Shan Heritage Trail, the RTHK TV series on heritage, the Year of Heritage project are some examples.

13.The Year of Heritage project was organized to mark 20 years of the implementation of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. In addition to the international conference successfully concluded recently, a wide variety of programmes including logo competition, exhibitions, lectures, heritage tours, archaeological workshops and heritage concerts were launched throughout the year to promote public awareness of the importance of heritage conservation. A total of 21 programmes attracting some 80,000 members of the public were organized ever since the Grand Opening Ceremony officiated by the Chief Secretary for Administration on 21 February 1997.


14.It has always been AAB and AMO's conviction that heritage preservation should be an integral part in the process of urban development and advancements. We have now included heritage preservation as one requirement in the preparation of development plans, assessment of environmental impact in major developments and urban renewal. The recent opening of the Central and Western Heritage Trail is another example and result of our efforts in preserving and promoting heritage in the territory in general and in the urban area in particular.

15.Due to dynamic urban development and redevelopment over the last century, hardly any archaeological sites (save for a few isolated locations) in the urban area have been able to survive. However we have still retained a sizeable built heritage. Urban renewal to cope with Hong Kong's further development into the next century provides us with both difficulties and opportunities. AAB and AMO have forged close dialogues with the Planning, Environment & Lands Bureau (PELB) and the Land Development Corporation (LDC) and are maximizing on the opportunities provided by their Urban Renewal Strategy.

16. To assist the process, AMO is conducting two territory-wide surveys respectively on archaeological sites and historical buildings. The prime objective is to establish a comprehensive inventory so as to facilitate the formulation of a long term preservation and conservation strategy.

17.AAB and AMO are also involved in other studies being conducted by the Government, such as the Territorial Development Strategy Review, the study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century (SusDev 21), the Town Planning White Bill, etc. Moreover, when the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance is put into operation in early 1998, assessment of the impact on heritage sites by major infrastructure developments and measures to mitigate such impacts will become statutory requirements.


18.Work in the areas described under paragraphs 8 to 17 above will continue. Furthermore, resources will be deployed to pursue activities set out in the Bureau's policy programme for 1998 (copy at Annex B), which include commencing a review of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance to assess its effectiveness in meeting our objectives; developing guidelines for compliance with the soon to be enforced Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance which makes heritage preservation a mandatory requirement in major development projects; and stepping up educational and promotional activities to promulgate heritage information and activities.

Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Bureau
December 1997