King George gets a royal pardon as council reconsiders removal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 January, 2003, 12:00am

The statue of King George VI in the botanical gardens last night appeared to have been spared the ignominy of being moved next to the monkey enclosure.

After a public outcry, the Central and Western District Council has backed away from a proposal to shift the colonial monarch's statue to make way for a monument to Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen.

The council yesterday confirmed it was looking at alternative sites for the statue of Dr Sun, founder of modern China, including the Peak and Hong Kong Park.

Chairman of the council, Wu Chor-nam, said he could not rule out the possibility that King George may ultimately be moved, but in the face of mounting opposition to the proposal, he would consider an alternative location for Dr Sun.

'I respect other citizens' views and ideas offered by councillors. If a suitable place can be found for the statue [of Dr Sun], then I'll choose not to stick with the present proposal,' he said.

Mr Wu said he would raise the issue of an alternative site during the next council meeting on February 13. 'It's not urgent work. We want to hear more people's views on it,' he said.

Under the original proposal suggested by some district councillors, the statue of King George VI, which was erected in 1958 to commemorate the centenary of the founding of the colony of Hong Kong (1841 to 1941), would be moved to a new position next to the monkey enclosure to make way for the statue of Dr Sun.

The Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council, meanwhile, is arguing that Dr Sun's statue should be placed in the Chung Shan Memorial Park - a temporary park in his honour - at the Western Harbour tunnel entrance in Western District.

The trades union council wants the park to be further developed in line with an original plan to establish a permanent memorial park.

'There is nothing inside this park at the moment, so we want the statue to be erected there to let people know what the park is about,' said Lee Kwok-keung, the trades union council's chairman.

But Mr Wu said the district council had ruled out Chung Shan Memorial Park as a possible site for Dr Sun's statue.

'Very few people visit the temporary park and it is not easily accessible, so the statue will not be moved there,' he said.

Mr Wu said he would seek to resolve the issue in a 'peaceful and low-key manner'.

In a letter published in the Post yesterday, the chairman of the district council's leisure and social affairs committee, Stephen Chan Chit-kwai, apologised for any confusion and said the council would come to a 'sensible' decision on the issue.

'The council believes we should be respectful to the past, including the British colonial period,' he said.

Joseph Ting Sun-pao, chief curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History, said people should understand that the 'one country, two systems' policy was a product of the territory's 156 years of colonial rule.

'If people don't respect colonial history, it is tantamount to not respecting the 'one country, two systems' policy,' Dr Ting said.

Echoing his views, Lee Kam-keung, associate professor of the Hong Kong Baptist University's Department of History, said: 'What we went through was a peaceful handover, not a revolution. We don't need to change the existing things.'

While saying that buildings and statues were preferably left in original locations, a Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesman said tourists were interested in both colonial and modern Chinese history.