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Neon signs add to old Hong Kong charms, but safety comes first

  • Once an exotic attraction for tourists, neon signs appeal less to most visitors from the mainland today, and badly maintained ones pose a safety risk
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2019, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2019, 6:03pm

Instances of falling signs in busy streets in recent years not only reminded pedestrians that it was safer to be walking under a ledge, but also accelerated the speed of demolition of potentially dangerous signs.

The colourful neon signs hanging along Hong Kong streets have long been seen as a unique characteristic of local culture, and the city’s fascinating streetscapes have always been a major attraction for tourists.

But today’s Hong Kong has a lot more attractions, such as Disneyland, the Big Buddha, and spectacular views of skyscrapers with gorgeous architecture along both sides of Victoria Harbour. Walking along a street lined with shining neon signs is possibly no longer the highlight of a visitor’s travel experience.

Neon signs: a shining example of Hong Kong's heritage

Moreover, the majority of our tourists today are mainlanders, rather than from overseas. Most mainland Chinese visitors care more about shopping than an appreciation of neon signs. These signs, which can seem exotic to visitors from farther afield, are probably a common sight in their hometowns. So it is not surprising to hear people say the attractiveness of neon signs for promoting tourism is waning.

In contrast, the fact that many of these signs pose a safety risk has been in the spotlight. Some signs seem in desperate need of repair or maintenance and, if an accident does happen, responsibility gets thrown back and forth between the owner of the building and the shop owner.

Moreover, residents of areas with a lot of these signs have complained about the light pollution.

For these reasons, the government should allocate more resources to speed up the taking down of hazardous signs. Meanwhile, for the sake of our safety, perhaps we should also put up fewer of these signs, however charming, along our streets.

Tang Chi Ming, Wong Tai Sin