Shek O artist's splash of colour dashed by the graffiti busters
Shek O residents are demanding more support for public art after a 4.8-metre mural by a local artist was wiped out by government contractors because it was deemed illegal graffiti.
The brightly coloured artwork, Keep Shek O Beautiful, was painted by village artist Ray Yip on March 14 on slope works at the junction of Shek O Road and Cape D'Aguilar Road. The abstract landscape represented the sea view from above Shek O's main beach.
But on Wednesday morning contractors for the Highways Department painted over the mural after preparing the site by placing green netting over it the previous day.
Friends of Yip who rushed to the scene to protect the artwork found that the job had already been completed.
A Highways Department spokesman said it was responsible for the slope in Shek O and, although it was not the body charged with enforcing the law against offenders who produced unlawful graffiti, as a general practice it would arrange to clear it away. In repeated cases, the department would also report graffiti to the police.
'On March 24, we received a complaint from a member of the public against graffiti painted on the buttress wall of the subject slope and asked for rectification,' he said.
'The graffiti was painted without our prior consent or knowledge. Normally requests for painting slopes are from the Home Affairs Department (HAD).
'We have checked with HAD that no requests were made. Accordingly, we requested our contractor to clear the unlawful graffiti painted on the buttress wall. Clearance of the graffiti takes the form of a paint cover coloured in grey.'
Shek O photographer Ira Chaplain, who is a friend of Yip, said the artist was currently away and could not be contacted but was 'very upset' about the incident.
'It was a spontaneous act to celebrate the beauty of Shek O and the idea of keeping it that way,' Chaplain said.
'He did this because he loves the place and he was inspired by the empty block of slope works, that looks just like a canvas. He thinks it's ridiculous that the government has painted over it.
'I think they should have made an effort to find out who did it and whether people in the area wanted to keep it. Obliterating it is just thoughtless. It just shows the unwillingness of people in public departments to make the effort to see what the public thinks.'
Bill Lee Chung-biu of the Shek O Residents' Association said: 'When we first saw the painting on the wall, people were very excited.
'From what I saw, all the people who saw it liked it. We are living in Shek O, and when we look at the painting we can easily see it is a Shek O landscape.
'I have two kids and they were so surprised with this painting.
'And it's giving a message to be environmentally friendly, so this is a really positive thing. I really don't understand why they rubbed it away.'
Shek O resident Ellen Lai Sze-wa said: 'I think it's a shame that the government has painted over the mural. I think it's a fantastic artwork and I was amazed to see it on the slope works.
'Shek O is a very special place. It has got its own character, and this kind of artwork should be encouraged along the seaside.
'But it should be discussed with Shek O residents.'