Out of sight, out of mind? Queen Victoria statue obscured by boards and banner ahead of Xi visit

District councillor calls Hong Kong Celebrations Association ‘petty’ for setting up structures in Victoria Park ahead of handover anniversary

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 9:43am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 1:16pm

A pro-Beijing group overseeing celebratory events for the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to China was criticised as “petty” after it erected boards and a banner around Victoria Park in a way that obscured the Queen Victoria statue.

The Hong Kong Celebrations Association, which had booked the football pitches in the park for a science expo between Thursday and Sunday, later removed the boards and inflatable banner in response to a request from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the park.

Wan Chai district councillor Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying said she saw two rows of boards in front of and behind the bronze statue at the main entrance of the park on Causeway Road on Tuesday afternoon.

An inflatable red banner which read “To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” was also set up above the statue, which was erected in 1896 in what is now Statue Square to commemorate the queen’s Golden Jubilee. It was moved to Victoria Park in 1955.

The statue was almost completely blocked by the boards and banner, though the association eventually clarified that this was not intended. The objects were removed by workers later on Tuesday.

Yeung said she had never seen other park users do something like this and added that she was trying to find out why the boards and banner had been set up.

She said she hoped that the group had not planned to have the objects there on July 1. That date marks the anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty and will also be the last day of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to the city.

“[If that was the plan,] it was just too petty. They can’t even face the city’s colonial past,” Yeung said.

Association chairman Cheng Yiu-tong said on Wednesday morning that the group had not meant to block the statue.

“We were planning to put up a plan of the science expo on the board. It turned out to have blocked the statue, but that was not our idea,” Cheng explained.

An LCSD spokesman said its staff had seen the structures in front of the statue while on patrol on Tuesday and immediately contacted the association for more information.

The association had removed the structures, the spokesman added.

News of the incident quickly spread online.

A Facebook user said on Yeung’s page: “Obviously they don’t want President Xi to be able to see the relic of the colonial era.”

Another internet user said on a news outlet website: “Can’t accommodate an old bronze statue? Their pathetically little tolerance.” Another said: “Why don’t they tear the statue down?”

What colonial symbols might they target after Hong Kong’s royal postboxes?

The bronze statue is a prominent reminder of Hong Kong’s colonial history and has been targeted in the past.

It was given a HK$150,000 “nose job” in 1997 to repair the damage done by mainland artist Pun Sing-lui, who attacked the statue in Victoria Park with a hammer before covering it in red paint.

In 2015, Hongkong Post announced it would cover the British royal insignia on its remaining 59 colonial-era post boxes because they were “inappropriate” and could “confuse the public”. The move was slammed by conservationists and sparked a discussion on how “decolonisation” should be carried out.