22 March 2019
The Sung Wong Toi is a memorial to the Song Dynasty in Hong Kong. Photo: Flickr
The Sung Wong Toi is a memorial to the Song Dynasty in Hong Kong. Photo: Flickr

Govt blamed for loss of priceless Song relics

Hundreds of priceless Song Dynasty relics may have been destroyed at the ongoing construction of the MTR Shatin-Central Line because the Antiquities and Monuments Office, the government agency in charge of protecting such sites, failed to act promptly and adequately to supervise the excavations, an anonymous group of archaeologists said.

In an open letter, the group said the government’s excavation and protection activities at the underground sites are having serious problems, causing damage to “the most important archaeological discoveries in Hong Kong”.

Their letter came before the Antiquities Advisory Board was scheduled to hold a meeting on Thursday to determine when the MTR Corp. will be allowed to resume its construction at the To Kwa Wan site in South Kowloon, where many Song relics had been discovered recently.

More than a thousand historical treasures have been found near the planned MTR station, including a huge amount of china and copper coins as well as 239 artifacts going back to the Song and Yuan dynasties, newspaper AM730 reported Thursday.

On Tuesday, Ming Pao Daily reported that MTR has resumed construction at some of the sites that may have historic relics. 

Antiquities Advisory Board chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo said he wanted to know whether the MTR had notified the Antiquities and Monuments Office about the resumption of its construction work, and whether the latter had promptly informed the board about it, Ming Pao Daily reported on Thursday.

The ongoing archaeological survey for the planned To Kwa Wan station may have wasted more than HK$10 million because they were searching for relics in an area that was reclaimed after 1920, the unnamed archaeologists said.

Stanley Ng Wing-fai, spokesperson of the Hong Kong Archaeological Society, said he had received a copy of the open letter and agreed with the points it raised.

Ng said the discoveries involved two major historical figures — Song Emperor Zhao Bing, who took refuge in Hong Kong in 1276 to escape the Mongol army, and Man Tin Cheung, a famous general in the Song Dynasty. Ng said the government should send experts to do research on the To Kwa Wan site as soon as possible.

At the same time, the MTR can resume construction projects on the sites that have not yielded signs of having relics, Ng said. A test on earth samples will only take two weeks to complete, he said.

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EJ Insight reporter

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