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Heritage conservation:
Youth awaken to local identity

by Keith Yuen

The young are awakening to their Hong Kong identity and sense of belonging, and they demand for more civic participation in policy-making in the conservation of the city・s heritage, activists and analysts say.

The protests against the tearing down of historic landmarks like Star Ferry・s pier in Central and the nearby Queen・s Pier, which have drawn a large crowd of young participants, show the public frustration in making the government to carry out people・s wishes, they say.

:Young people are forcing the government to listen,; said Michael DeGolyer, principal investigator of Hong Kong Transition Project.

:It・s the recognition of the Hong Kong identity in the past 10 years that made the young people voice out their demand.;

Professor DeGolyer, who has been tracking the city・s change, said he expected there would be more protests in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong・s reunion with mainland China in July.

Young people have become more vocal and taken active part in heritage conservation since the campaign to save the Star Ferry pier・s clock tower from demolition.

Last December, a group of young people, including activists and students, stormed into the pier・s site, which had been sealed off for the demolition, to stop workers from bulldozing the pier building. Although the protest failed to preserve the pier and its clock tower at the end, it has aroused more public concern over heritage conservation.

Protecting the Queen・s Pier has become their next mission.

More than 90 protesters reenacted the arrival of the former British governors in Hong Kong at the Queen・s Pier on January 21 to symbolise the local people・s ownership of the place now.

:Our pier! Our home! The land belongs to the people!; the protesters chanted. Two 30-metre-long banners carrying the slogan of their demand were hung across the square near the pier.

:.Collective memory・ may be a buzzword, but I don・t come here just for memory,; said Shania Ko Lai-shan, a 20-year-old student from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, at the rally.

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