You've probably read that Hongkong Post plans to cover up the royal insignia on the few remaining old postboxes around Hong Kong.
But they said they'd "preserve these iconic items"
Until recently they had a very different approach. In a 2102 SCMP article, the Hongkong Post spokeswoman, Mary Chung, said:
"We think the best way to preserve these iconic items is to keep them in use rather than putting them in museums as historic exhibits. Nevertheless, we have also arranged a display of some vintage posting boxes at the Postal Gallery [in the General Post Office] and the Hong Kong Museum of History."
They lived up to their word, so when the old postbox on the Peak disappeared last year
a sign reassured that it was gone for "preservation service"
and shortly after it was back and beautified:
So what's changed?
I haven't seen any official announcement from Hongkong Post, but according to HKFP:
Peter Li Siu-man, senior campaign manager of the Conservancy Association, met Postmaster General Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei on September 9. Li was told that the royal cyphers would be covered by metal plates showing the hummingbird logo of Hongkong Post, unifying them and making it easier to recognise them.
At this point you roll your eyes and wonder who is the person that needs help recognising a large, green-coloured postbox-shaped item is actually ... a postbox. And if this is a genuine problem they have, are they really regular letter-writers?
Or you reach a similar conclusion to Monday's SCMP article:
Royal cover-up: claims of political motive behind Hongkong post moves to hide Queen’s insignia on letter boxes
Are the postboxes worth preserving?
Yes! Hong Kong's years of rapid development means that most of our historic items have already been lost. If we're to encourage private and public developers to value and preserve our remaining heritage, having a government body drilling and covering the old postboxes sets a terrible example.
So what can I do?
Write to the Postmaster General, Mrs Jessie Ting to ask her to stop this project. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Please don't damage our historic postboxes
Dear Mrs Ting,
I've read that you plan to drill and cover the few remaining old postboxes in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's years of rapid development means that most of our historic items have already been lost. If we're to encourage private and public developers to value and preserve our remaining heritage, having a government body drilling and covering the old postboxes sets a terrible example.
Please think again and avoid this needless damage.
You're also encouraged to send her a postcard this Friday, October 9th. It's World Post Day, so you can mail it for free at your local post office. Click here for details.
Old colonial postboxes are covered here on gwulo.
In the Press
The story has also been picked up overseas:
PS I dropped my postcard to Mrs Ting in to the World Post Day letterbox today, asking her not to damage the postboxes. I hope she gets plenty of them.
Not confusing, inappropriate
In a change of direction, a government press release on Friday explained the real reason that the crowns need to be covered up:
In response to media enquiries, a spokesman for Hongkong Post today (October 9) said, "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. In parallel, Government is considering the best way to conserve old posting boxes. We will listen to and study the views of stakeholders, and will make an announcement after making a decision."
Except it doesn't really explain anything. We still don't know who in "The Government" considers the crowns to be a problem. Nor do we know why the Hongkong Post's views in 2012 have now become inappropriate:
"We think the best way to preserve these iconic items is to keep them in use rather than putting them in museums as historic exhibits."
Mentions in the press:
CEDB to blame?
HKFP writes that:
... the decision to cover royal cyphers on 59 street post boxes from the British era was made by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB).
How does that decision match up with this Policy Statement from 24 June 2014?
HERITAGE CONSERVATION POLICY
2. Government’s heritage conservation policy statement, promulgated in
2007, states: “to protect, conserve and revitalise as appropriate historical and
heritage sites and buildings through relevant and sustainable approaches for the
benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. In implementing this
policy, due regard should be given to development needs in the public interest,
respect for private property rights, budgetary considerations, cross-sector
collaboration and active engagement of stakeholders and the general public”.
The Irish times has also written about this problem. Ireland painted their ex-colonial postboxes green way back in 1922. They're still in use today, crowns and all:
The red postboxes are back!
"Red postboxes carrying the royal insignia will also be set up,... "
Well that's even better than I'd hoped for.
"and British royal guards will be posted all over the place."
Hmm, Isn't that going a bit far?
"Best of British, a British cultural festival, will premiere in Hong Kong next month."
Oh. I see. So the red postboxes aren't really coming back then?
"Brazendale stressed that Best of British is purely a cultural event with no politics involved"
Extracts from: http://www.ejinsight.com/20151016-best-of-british-cultural-festival-to-…
Got it. Don't mention the politics. Or the postboxes.
Meanwhile, back in reality I've finally received a reply from HK Post:
Dear Mr David Bellis,
Thank you for your email of 7 Oct 2015.
Currently, there are around 1 150 street posting boxes in the territory for the public to post mail, 59 of which are cast-iron posting boxes. The Government considers it inappropriate to display the crown and the British royal cypher on the old posting boxes that are still in service, and is looking into ways to update the markings on these boxes. We will take care to avoid causing any damage to the royal insignia, which will be preserved. In parallel, the Government is considering the best way to conserve old posting boxes. The Government will listen to and study the views of stakeholders, and will make an announcement after reaching a decision.
Senior Manager (Public Relations)
Several other people who'd written to HK Post forwarded me the exact same message. Mine wasn't sent til 8:18pm, so they must have been working late cutting & pasting.
The message doesn't make it clear who in "The Government" considers the crowns inappropriate. Earlier in the week, that question was put to Ms Ting, the Postmaster General:
[During a LegCo panel hearing Monday, Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok] urged the postal chief to come clean as to who made the decision to eliminate the old insignia.
Was it Hongkong Post itself that made the decision or was it some high-level officials in the government, Kwok asked.
Stammering in her speech, Ting merely kept repeating that the decision was the result of internal government discussions.
Other press mentions:
Letter of the law: Royal insignia on postboxes are an essential part of Hong Kong's history. SCMP, Oct 20, 2015.
Mainland netizens confused by Hong Kong’s decision to cover postbox royal cyphers. HKFP, Oct 20, 2015
Postman expat - A clash between the British past and Chinese present. The Economist, Oct 24, 2015