Hong Kong's vintage colonial postboxes to be preserved

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 February, 2015, 5:27pm

While Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, was lamenting the sight of colonial flags on the streets of Hong Kong last week, others were planning some conservation action.

It seems not everyone agrees with Chen that all remnants of the city's colonial past belong in a museum. In fact the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) wants some of the most colourful reminders of British rule to stay on the streets.

Vintage postboxes - once painted red but now green - are dotted over the city, many still in use. Among the 58 colonial-era postboxes in operation, nine have been selected by the AMO for conservation. Hongkong Post has been working closely with AMO on preservation work.

"Postboxes, irrespective of their year of commissioning, are part of the postal network for service delivery. We will therefore continue to maintain them in good and serviceable condition until they are beyond repair," Hongkong Post spokeswoman Mary Chung said.

"We think the best way to preserve these iconic items is to keep them in use rather than putting them in museums as historic exhibits. Nevertheless, we have also arranged a display of some vintage posting boxes at the Postal Gallery [in the General Post Office] and the Hong Kong Museum of History."

The display will include traditional pillar and lamp-type boxes that have been used since long before the handover.

Hongkong Post will dispose of any unserviceable postboxes bearing royal insignia, and will consult the Director of Government Logistics to arrange for them to be destroyed.

According to one lawmaker, miscellaneous leftovers from colonial times are a fact of life in Hong Kong and it has to be accepted that there are still numerous colonial influences visible in its architecture and appearance.

"Many British-given street names remain unchanged and lawyers are still required to wear white wigs in court," Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Ip Kwok-him said.

Ip said similar British postboxes were still being used in former colonies such as Malaysia, and did not think it necessary to have them replaced in the city when still in working order.

"Anyway, they will be replaced when they are worn out," he said.