News of the government’s decision to conceal the royal cyphers on colonial-era postboxes has reached mainland China, and although Hongkong Post says the move is intended to “avoid confusion,” more mainlanders appear to be confused by Hongkong Post than by the offending postboxes.

Post Box with British insignia in Chak On Estate, Sham Shui Po. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“They should preserve [the postboxes],” said the top comment on Sina News, where nearly all of the most popular comments were critical of Hongkong Post.

“History should be remembered and not wiped away. Even shameful history should not be forgotten… Don’t forget why Japan has never been forgiven by the people of Asia: because they wish to change history, to erase the past.”

“Surely these [royal] marks are antiques. What’s the matter with leaving them as historical relics? Is it really necessary to wipe them all out?” asked one bewildered netizen. Another queried, “Shall we get rid of the Old Summer Palace next?”

Soon after former Beijing official Chen Zuo’er told an audience in Hong Kong that “de-colonisation” was the cause of the city’s social and economic problems, local media reported that Hongkong Post planned to cover the royal cyphers on 59 pre-handover postboxes.

“The Government considers it inappropriate to display the crown and the British royal cypher on old posting boxes that are still in service, and is looking into ways to update the markings on these boxes,” a statement from Hongkong Post read.

Postbox confusion
Postbox confusion. Photo: HKFP.

The decision sparked public outcry in Hong Kong, and has even been decried by mainland commentators usually anxious to promote “decolonisation” and further integration between Hong Kong and the rest of China.

“There’s really no need [to cover the cyphers],” a confused web user said of the story, “it doesn’t affect their use anyway. There’s nothing wrong with remembering a period in history.”

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others