Officials promise to preserve graffiti of the King of Kowloon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am

The government promised yesterday that the remaining pieces of street calligraphy by 'King of Kowloon' Tsang Tsou-choi would not be removed, as officials considered how to preserve them.

A day after Tsang's death became known, the Home Affairs Bureau said that 'due to the expectations of the public' examples of his work, including those at the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui and near Kwun Tong police station, would remain.

But even in death, the indomitable graffitist, who battled officialdom for half a century to keep bringing his messages to the streets, is giving the government a headache.

A senior source said there were difficulties in deciding how to preserve the calligraphy because it did not qualify as a monument or historical place.

'You cannot declare a concrete pillar with his work a historic site according to the law,' the source said.

Officials are now discussing whether the work is tangible heritage that should be governed by the Development Bureau, or intangible heritage, which comes under the Home Affairs Bureau.

Meanwhile, people flocked to the pier to pay homage at the pillar featuring Tsang's densely packed Chinese script.

Vennesa Yung Chi-wei, 19, said she met him five years ago. 'I asked him what he was drawing and he said, 'I am drawing casually. You wouldn't understand'.'

A 50-year-old who travelled from Lam Tin said the work should be preserved. 'I used to find him disgusting, but I have started to miss him. The Museum of Art should keep some of his work.'

Much of Tsang's graffiti was scrawled on pedestrian overpasses, phone boxes and electrical boxes, and was peppered with obscenities and abuse towards Queen Elizabeth. It has long since been washed off by government contractors.

Spanish tourist Del Sai Carlos Luis was admiring his work for the first time. 'It is very different from the graffiti in Spain. It is not permitted to draw on walls in my country, but I don't think it should be banned.'

Lau Kin-wai, artist and friend of Tsang, said the graffiti needed to be preserved where it stood. 'I think we should especially protect the one at the pier. Protect it with transparent board and put up a small plate telling people the meaning of it to the city.'

Although many admirers may want to pay their last respects to Tsang, Lau said his family wanted a low-profile funeral without involvement from the public.

Chan Kwong-yan, a graffiti artist who is commonly known as MC Yan, said Hong Kong did not appreciate street art. 'There are many beautiful examples ... but they are washed off almost immediately.'