A Hong Kong lawmaker has suggested renaming public parks and playgrounds bearing colonial references to honour present-day and historical Chinese heroes.

Junius Ho
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Junius Ho raised the proposal in a Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting, citing Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s previous statements that Chinese people must have “national self-confidence.”

“We must strengthen civic education,” Ho said. “Why aren’t we innovative [in the naming of our public facilities]?”

The lawmaker’s comments came as legislators discussed the removal of the word ‘temporary” from five government-run parks in the Central and Western District, among them Brewin Path Temporary Playground and Forbes Street Temporary Playground.

Some public facilities bear the word “temporary” in their names because their “land grants may not have been long term,” Deputy Director of Leisure and Cultural Services (Leisure Services) Ida Lee said. She added that if the land were to be handed to the government indefinitely, authorities would remove the word “temporary.”

Forbes Street Temporary Playground
Forbes Street Temporary Playground in Kennedy Town. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

“Now that we are [talking about] changing the names of parks, logically, I am bringing this suggestion out for authorities to consider,” Ho said.

In a paper submitted to LegCo, Ho listed 39 names grouped into four categories – historical national heroes, modern-day national heroes, present-day outstanding Chinese individuals, and outstanding local athletes.

Among them were 12th-century Song dynasty military general Yue Fei, Manchurian warlord Zhang Xueliang, martial artist Bruce Lee and medical expert Zhong Nanshan.

“There are tens of thousands of heroes and outstanding individuals in the whole of China,” Ho said. “I think many of these names carry no controversy.”

Warlord Zhang Xueliang (left) and revolutionary Chiang Kai-shek (right). Photo: Wikicommons.

In the local athletes category, 14 people – including fencer Edgar Cheung, swimmer Siobhan Haughey and retired Paralympics star So Wa Wai – were named.

Hong Kong’s colonial past

Many of Hong Kong’s roads and public facilities play tribute to the city’s colonial past, named after British royalty or colonial political figures.

Pro-establishment figures have suggested erasing such symbols. In 2018, a member of Beijing’s top advisory body said Hong Kong should “undergo decolonisation” starting with changing place and street names.

The government told lawmakers in a LegCo meeting after that it was unnecessary to review street names.

“Removing colonial government symbols is not a factor for consideration,” then-development secretary Michael Wong said, citing the “chaos and inconvenience” that may be caused by such changes.

Queen's Road Central
Queen’s Road Central. Photo: Wikicommons.

In the Tuesday meeting, lawmaker Priscilla Leung echoed Ho’s comments that there were many figures in Chinese history worth honouring.

“In Chinese history, many have made major contributions to the nation, to society, to the world,” she said.

Undersecretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Raistlin Lau Chun said Ho’s “intentions” were good, but that administratively, they would be difficult to implement. Authorities would only consider them for the naming of large parks or playgrounds, Lau added.

Ho said the naming could consider the manner in which the city’s typhoons are named, whereby there is a list of names and no need for public consultation.

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Hillary Leung is a journalist at Hong Kong Free Press, where she reports on local politics and social issues, and assists with editing. Since joining in late 2021, she has covered the Covid-19 pandemic, political court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial, and challenges faced by minority communities.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hillary completed her undergraduate degree in journalism and sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She worked at TIME Magazine in 2019, where she wrote about Asia and overnight US news before turning her focus to the protests that began that summer. At Coconuts Hong Kong, she covered general news and wrote features, including about a Black Lives Matter march that drew controversy amid the local pro-democracy movement and two sisters who were born to a domestic worker and lived undocumented for 30 years in Hong Kong.