'If you arrest me you must charge the government'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 December, 2009, 12:00am

Graffitist Joel Chung Yin-chai came out fighting yesterday as he faced possible prosecution for defacing calligraphy painted on a Kennedy Town wall by the late 'King of Kowloon', Tsang Tsou-choi.

If he was to be arrested, Chung said, so should government employees who covered up other work by Tsang over the years.

Chung was speaking after the government said it had reported the vandalising of the Kennedy Town work - which Chung has admitted covering with his own painting - to the police.

He cited a work in Lei Yue Mun Road opposite the Kwun Tong police station that was recently covered with grey paint.

The Highways Department has admitted painting over graffiti by four unknown people with similar paint during maintenance, but has denied doing so to Tsang's work.

'The appearance of grey patches scattered all over the retaining wall can be considered as graffiti. I don't see them as maintenance work,' Chung said.

'If the government is calling the police [about my action], then they have admitted that their action of painting over Tsang's works was wrong.'

The Home Affairs Bureau said yesterday that the Lands Department, which was responsible for the Kennedy Town Abattoir, on which Tsang painted his signature calligraphy in 1997, had reported the vandalising of the site to police a couple of weeks ago.

A friend of Tsang, Lau Kin-wai, also reported it to the police last week.

Chung said he was aware that Lau and the government had reported his action, but the police had yet to contact him.

He argued that the police should also charge government departments, such as the Highways Department and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, for painting over Tsang's works.

Chung said the police might also want to contact Lau, who had taken Tsang to paint the Kennedy Town graffiti 12 years ago.

The Home Affairs Bureau said that it had sought different departments' assistance in reminding their contractors or agents not to whitewash or destroy Tsang's graffiti in public areas. Departments responsible for different sites might consider taking vandalism cases to the police, a bureau spokesman said.

Chung has also recently removed the top layers of paint bearing Tsang's calligraphy from two pillars of an archway leading to a Buddhist temple on Victoria Road, and painted over some other Tsang works in Kwun Tong. He said he would continue his work on other Tsang sites.

Last week he removed some grey paint on top of Tsang's work in Kowloon to bring the covered-up calligraphy back into public view.