The government has ordered the pro-Beijing group hosting a handover anniversary celebration event in Victoria Park to remove a board blocking the park’s Queen Victoria statue from view, according to a district councillor.

Two boards around 2.5 metres tall were placed in front and behind the statue this week, causing an outcry from some. A blow-up banner with the message “Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland” was suspended above the structures.

Queen Victoria statue
Photo: Clarisse Yeung, via Facebook.

Wan Chai district councillor Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying discovered the setup on Tuesday and notified the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Yeung said the department’s staff members asked the organiser to remove them.

A spokesperson of the department told HKFP that its staff discovered the setup in front of the statue on Tuesday afternoon and contacted the Hong Kong Celebration Association immediately to understand the situation. It said the association removed the setup afterwards.

HKFP noted that the one in front of the statue was no longer there on Wednesday morning.

The event was a technology exhibition hosted by the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Celebration Association, which booked Victoria Park between June 29 and July 2.

‘Old colonial relic’

Yeung told Apple Daily that organisers have respected the park’s facilities in the past.

Queen Victoria statue
Queen Victoria statue. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

“I don’t see what the use of [the board] is, other than to block the statue,” she said.

Yeung’s post caused a clamour among some residents. One commenter wrote on social media: “They can’t even bear an old statue? What narrow minds!”

“Obviously they don’t want Xi to see an old colonial relic,” another said.

Tsang Heung-kwan, an event coordinator with the Association, denied that the structures were intended to block the statue.

He told news site HK01 that the banner was intended to indicate an entrance, and that maps of festivities in the park would be shown on the boards. He added that the pedestrians could still see the statue if they walk along its side.

Tsang said the group did not realise their setup may create a perception of disrespect to history and said they will consider making changes.

Queen Victoria statue
Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

The Queen Victoria statue was installed in Hong Kong in 1896. It was originally placed at Statue Square in Central, but was taken away by the Japanese army during the Second World War. The army intended to melt the statue and make weapons from the metal. It returned to Hong Kong after the war, and was later placed at the newly-built Victoria Park, which was named after the Queen.

The figure underwent repairs last year when paint started peeling off. The government spent around HK$260,000 hiring a contractor to repair it, but drew criticism for using thick paint, which covered up some details. 

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.