Michael Wright, a former colonial Hong Kong official who reformed public housing, passed away in London last Friday at the age of 105.

The former Director of Public Works of Hong Kong advocated for private bathrooms and kitchens in every unit at housing estates. It became known as the “Wright Principle.”

Michael Wright. Photo: Stand News.

The Lai Tak Estate in Tai Hang – where some of the buildings have an unconventional cylindrical design – was named as a tribute to Wright’s Chinese name.

Wright was born in Hong Kong in 1912 on the Peak. His family were civil servants in public works. Educated in the the UK, he obtained qualifications as a surveyor and architect. In 1938, he joined the Hong Kong government’s Public Works Department.

Lai Tak Estate. Photo: Hong Kong Housing Society.

John Batten, co-convenor of the Central & Western Concern Group, said he met with Wright at his London flat in 2012.

“I chatted to Michael about his time arriving in Hong Kong just before WWII, his years interned as a prisoner-of-war in Hong Kong, his post-war position [as] Chief Architect and his pivotal job to undertake the huge re-building of Hong Kong after the War and the massive public infrastructure initiatives led by him and his fellow Public Works colleagues with the influx of mainland refugees after the civil war ended with the communist forces victory in 1948,” Batten wrote in a Facebook post.

“Michael was Hong Kong’s first Director of Public Works and a remarkable, modest man with a calm and progressive vision. I hope he will be remembered for many, many years.”

West Wing of the former Central Government Offices. File Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the most prominent projects overseen by Wright were the Central Government Offices in Central, which have since been vacated.

When he was 99, Wright supported a campaign to save the West Wing of the former Government Offices. The building will soon reopen as office space for law-related organisations.

Katty Law, co-convenor of the Central & Western Concern Group, said Wright played an important role in preserving Government Hill.

Kris Cheng

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.