Monarch may move next to monkeys

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 January, 2003, 12:00am

The statue of King George VI in the botanical gardens will be moved to a new position next to the monkey enclosure if a plan to replace him with a monument to Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen goes ahead.

Details of the colonial monarch's proposed new home emerged as it was announced that closer consideration was being given to the proposal in light of an outcry over the plans.

Some district councillors argue the monarch's prime location should be surrendered to Dr Sun, founder of modern China. However, historians and others are concerned about preserving Hong Kong's colonial history.

District councillor Chan Chit-kwai, who proposed the move and is the chairman of the Central and Western District Council's culture, leisure and social affairs committee, said a decision would now be delayed. In view of the debate surrounding yesterday's South China Morning Post report on the issue, councillors would carry out 'in-depth' research into the best location for Dr Sun's statue and gauge public views before presenting a final proposal later this month.

Mr Chan's committee was asked by the district council to find a place for a statue of Dr Sun, who is credited with bringing about the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 and served briefly as president. Mr Chan said: 'What concerns me most is that even our committee members cannot reach a consensus on the issue. We may find another location or insist on the original suggestion.'

However, he insisted that the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens in Central was the best place for Dr Sun's statue because of his links to the area and its convenience to the public. Dr Sun studied medicine in the district in the 1890s.

Mr Chan said the next district council meeting would rule on the proposal on February 13.

The statue of King George, British monarch from 1936 to 1952, is in the centre of the gardens surrounded by aviaries. Under the plan, he will be moved across Albany Road next to the monkey enclosure.

Fellow district councillor Kam Nai-wai, who opposed the proposal, said the delays were unnecessary. 'I hope citizens will continue monitoring the situation,' Mr Kam said.

Patrick Hase, chairman of the Royal Asiatic Society (Hong Kong Branch), yesterday described the proposal to dethrone the king's statue as 'racist' and 'anti-British'. 'It's important to increase understanding of Chinese history, but it's not to say that Chinese history should replace British history,' Dr Hase said. '[Dr Sun's statue] should be placed somewhere else.'

While saying he did not think the government had tried to erase Hong Kong's colonial past since the handover, he added: 'There are some foolish people who like doing things that they believe will please the government.'

The British Consulate-General said: 'Whether or not to move the King George VI statue is the decision of the district council, it's not our role to interfere in that. That said, so much of Hong Kong's past has given way to new development. It seems a pity to move [the statue] needlessly.'

Graphic: STAT10GET