The day the government gobbled up Pac-Man

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 9:19am

A colourful "invasion" of Hong Kong that used to brighten the day of passers-by has been suppressed - by government workers taking orders to keep public areas free from street art.

The mosaic of tiles featured characters of the iconic arcade game Pac-Man and graced a wall along King's Road near Fortress Hill until it was removed recently.

The image was the work of French street artist Invader, who, in his words, "invaded" the city last month, creating more than 35 public works across the city. The Highways Department admitted removing it.

Net users criticised the government for paying lip service to its promise of supporting the arts. "The government is spending billions to build the West Kowloon [Cultural District] but cannot support street art," a user wrote.

Invader creates mosaics featuring his signature motif - aliens from the 1970s arcade shooting game Space Invaders.

During his first trip, in 2001, the artist visited "King of Kowloon" Tsang Tsou-choi, who through calligraphy gave free rein to his passion for writing on the city's streets.

According to the Frenchman's "invasion" map of Hong Kong, he conquered areas including Central and Mong Kok.

But the authorities hit back just before Valentine's Day.

The department said it received a report of a "decoration made up of materials believed to be ceramic tiles" found on a slope at the junction of King's Road in Tin Hau and Tsing Fung Street.

"The department sent a staff member to inspect the site and ordered the contractor to remove the decoration on February 13," a spokesman said.

He did not give a reason, but insisted it was the department's duty to ensure street safety for the public.

The Home Affairs Bureau, which handles arts and culture, said it had nothing to do with the removal and pledged to continue protecting the remaining calligraphy created by the late Tsang.

Protective covers had been installed on a pillar at Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier and a lamp post near Ping Shek estate that bore his works, the bureau said.

Iron gates from Kwun Tong that carry his writings are now in the collection of West Kowloon visual culture museum M+.