The government has confirmed that one of its contractors painted over one of the last remaining public graffiti works left by the late “King of Kowloon” Tsang Tsou-choi.

An electricity box featuring Tsang’s renowned calligraphy stood for decades near the the Kwun Tong Road Children’s Playground. His graffiti work is considered to be art by critics, but only three intact public examples of his street art are now known to exist.

King of Kowloon Tsang Tsou-choi
Photo: Joel Chung.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it commissioned the Architectural Services Department this month to refurbish the playground.

“According to information provided by the Architectural Services Department, the electricity box was not part of the works,” the department told HKFP on Wednesday night.

Wan Chung Construction Company was responsible for the renovations. Buckets of white paint were found next to the box.

“According to our understanding, the contractor mistakenly painted over the ink writing on the electricity box, and the Architectural Services Department has made follow up actions in accordance with the contract.”

Photo: Joel Chung.

The LCSD said it will speak to the Architectural Services Department to see if there is any feasible remedy.

“We will improve communication with engineering departments to remind contractors not to clean or paint over the ink writings of Tsang Tsou-choi left in venues managed by us,” the LCSD added.

Tsang, who died in 2007 aged 86, had been writing Chinese characters in public for half a century. He claimed that Kowloon belonged to his ancestors, after studying the records of his clan from his mainland hometown. Following that, he began to make his land claims and named family members in his distinctive graffiti across the city.

But the remaining spots around Hong Kong have been gradually painted over by the government.

In 2010, then-secretary for home affairs Tsang Tak-sing said that government departments had been reminded that contractors should not remove Tsang’s work.

Tsang Tsou-choi
A team from Google taking photos of the box for a virtual gallery of Tsang Tsou-choi’s work in 2015. Photo: Joel Chung.

Joel Chung Yin-chai, a curator and a friend of Tsang, said the LCSD clearly knew of the ink calligraphy on the box, and was required to protect it.

“Then why were there no protections made, such as a barrier, over the past ten years?” he said. “If some protection was in place, this incident would not have happened.”

Two remaining works, on a lamp post near the playground and at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, are both protected with plastic boxes.

Tsang Tsou-choi
Tsang Tsou-choi’s work at Tsim Sha Tsui. It has since been protected with a plastic box. File

Another work, featured on a wooden door of a Kwun Tong theatre, was acquired by the soon-to-open M+ art museum.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.