OBITUARY: Arthur Hacker 1932-2013

Historian and artist Arthur Hacker left legacy of creativity

Through books, drawings and an evil litterbug, Arthur Hacker captured all of Hong Kong life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 2:51am

Arthur Hacker MBE, renowned artist, historian, author and creator of an endearing emblem of 1970s Hong Kong - the litterbug Lap Sap Chung - died in hospital of pneumonia on Wednesday. He was 81.

Through his pop art-style, pen and ink drawings, Hacker recorded the colourful street life in Hong Kong in the swinging 1970s, from bell-bottomed boys and cheeky girls in Wan Chai to motley stray dogs and visiting sailors.

But most Hongkongers know Hacker best for his monstrous creation, litterbug Lap Sap Chung. In 1972 the Information Services Department (ISD), where Hacker worked, launched a campaign to clean up Hong Kong. Hacker created public enemy number one - a green, long-snouted monster with red spots and a forked tail. Lap Sap Chung was supposed to be repulsive, but ended up looking almost endearing instead. Television had just arrived in Hong Kong, and Lap Sap Chung became an unexpected folk villain.

Hacker arrived in Hong Kong in December 1967 to work for the colonial government's ISD. He had studied at the Royal College of Art in England and then worked on Fleet Street.

He was multitalented, a writer and historian as well as a painter and illustrator. He was an avid collector of books, historic postcards and early Hong Kong and China photos, many collected in his book China Illustrated.

Hacker's Hong Kong was another of many books, both humorous and serious, that he wrote and illustrated. His prolific output also included beautiful postage stamps for the Hong Kong post office.

Hacker was charmingly eccentric and a master of the one-liner. A Foreign Correspondents' Club regular, his approach to drinking was: "Never get drunk on a Friday night - you should never have a hangover in your own time." He never married because, he said, that way you avoid the tiresome business of getting a divorce.

Hacker loved history. "He was passionate about it and was one of the most talented and versatile artists and writers in Hong Kong," said Jonathan Wattis, friend and exhibitor of Hacker's work in his Hollywood Road gallery. "He had a wonderful archive and contributed a lot to our history."

Following a fall four years ago, Hacker spent his last months in a government care home, where he received excellent care.

As one friend said: "Arthur met his objectives to stay in Hong Kong to the end and to try to make it a better place."

Hacker is survived by his brother George and his sister Carlotta.