Wartime heritage: Hong Kong vs Singapore
We're just back from a long weekend in Singapore, and they are streets ahead of Hong Kong in terms of preserving and promoting their heritage from World War II.
Preserving first - do you remember last month I asked the AMO (Antiquities & Monuments Office) if they'd make Hong Kong's pillboxes listed buildings, to help preserve them. They replied that it wasn't possible at present, due to 'manpower and resource constraints'.
By contrast, here is a WWII pillbox and its notice board on Sentosa island:
Next Promoting. After passing through immigration at Singapore airport, the rack of tourist info included a brochure on WWII sites. You can see the contents on their website too. The closest that the HK Tourist board website comes is a mention of the Museum of Coastal Defence.
Why the difference?
One reason is the different emphasis placed on preserving heritage, and then using it to draw in tourists. The understanding that 'stay an extra day' doesn't just mean another day of shopping and eating. This week's Time Out Singapore had several articles on old Singapore, including this quote from the former prime Minsiter Lee Kuan Yew in 1995:
"In our rush to rebuild Singapore, we knocked down many old and quaint Singapore buildings. Then we realised we were destroying a valuable part of our cultural heritage... we were demolishing what tourists found attractive and unique in Singapore. We halted the demolition... We were a little late, but fortunately we have retained enough of our history to remind ourselves and tourists of our past."
I'm not sure we've grasped that message here, 14 years later.