Well, as quite some time has passed and they still haven’t to my SCMP letter, I assume they have decided not to and thus have sent them the following through email.
Dear Mr Tang,
Thank you for your email. I hope the following will be helpful for this postbox preservation exercise.
I note from your email and media coverage on 13 July 2010 that the current plan is to preserve only nine colonial postboxes, eight from the King George V era and an oval-shaped one from the Queen Elizabeth II era. I was initially very puzzled to note the Heritage Commissioner’s Office would say there were eight King George V boxes, as according to my record there are indeed only seven such surviving King George V boxes in Hong Kong. I then noticed from the report in Apple Daily that the postbox at School Road, Cheung Chau (No.227) was identified as a King George V box. This was wrong as it is clear from its Royal Cipher that it is indeed a King George VI box (see the pictures at http://hkpostbox.xanga.com/726382665/%E6%90%9C%E7%B4%A2%E9%9A%8A%E5%9B%9E%E5%A0%B1—%E9%83%B5%E7%AD%92-227/ ).
I believe it was an inadvertent mistake, caused perhaps by over-reliance on the old postbox list provided by Hongkong Post. But, all the same, I would suggest, it shows the importance of caution and meticulosity in this exercise. The list by the Hongkong Post, including only 58 (or 57?) postboxes, is indeed incomplete. There are
actually 61 old postboxes – 52 Queen Elizabeth II (ERII), 2 King George VI (GRVI) and 7 King George V (GRV), details of which could be found in this list https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AhbXpNwnjON2dEpHbElGRTVMMTJKQXVvNlp3NTBHcGc&hl=en_GB . The three old postboxes that Hongkong Post has overlooked are at Sun Tin Post Office, Kam Tin Post Office and Shau Tau Kok Post Office.
Links to photos of all these 61 postboxes (except the one at Shek Pik Prison) is available at http://hksearch.weebly.com/256283203438538240502356329554303403932128207332903710931570.html
In your email you said that the Hongkong Post currently had no plan to remove the rest of the old postboxes and thus implied there was no need to include them in the current plan. This, with due respect, I must disagree. Hongkong Post has always maintained that they would only remove old postboxes “due to wear and tear or because they were too small to meet the growing demand”. (“Keep historic mail boxes in service, experts urge” SCMP,19 March 2007)
But deeds speak louder than words and their record in fact shows a lack of commitment in old postbox preservation. According to a SCMP report (“Keep historic mailboxes in service, experts urge”, 19 March 2007), there were 144 old postboxes in 1997. This is reduced now to 61, meaning 83 postboxes have already been removed by Hongkong Post, presumably, for the two reasons quoted above. At this rate, the 52 old postboxes not included in the present preservation plan will have been gone in the next few years!
Furthermore, I believe Hongkong Post’s two quoted reasons for old postbox replacement are invalid. I have suggested in a letter to SCMP (“No excuse for letting the city’s historic postboxes dwindle away”, 24 February 2010), in response to a reply from the Hongkong Post (“Postbox too badly damaged”, 18 February 2010) to an earlier letter of mine (“Historic mail box’s last post”, 11 February 2010), that for the concern of insufficient capacity “a more preservation-minded option would have been to erect another mailbox alongside the older
For the concern of wear and tear, the Sok Kwu Wan KGV postbox which Hongkong Post originally maintained to be beyond repair (“Postbox too badly damaged” SCMP, 18 February 2010) but is now spared the hammer after professional repair rendered by the Architectural Services Department is a telling example of what could be achieved by more conscientious effort.
Given Hongkong Post’s dismal records (in both the preservation of old boxes and maintaining an accurate list of the surviving boxes), I believe the fate of the other fifty-two boxes not included in the current plan should not be just left to the supposed good faith of Hongkong Post. The Heritage Commissioner’s Office must take a more
proactive role in ensuring their survival.
If resource is a concern, I believe we could categorize the boxes into different tiers, according to their historical values, and then accord them different levels of preservation effort. For example, Tier One boxes will have an information plate with write-up on its particularity and history set beside it. Tier Two will have no plate but be given such basic routine attentions (e.g. repainting, washing, maintenance and repair) as described in the “Letter Boxes: A Joint Policy Statement by Royal Mail and English Heritage”.
The baseline is there must be a commitment from all the concerned departments, especially Hongkong Post, that none of the remaining of the sixty-one boxes not included in the current plan are to be removed. While the main responsibility may lie with Hongkong Post, I submit that the Heritage Commissioner’s Office and/or the Antiques and Monuments Office have an inexcusable advisory/monitoring role in ensuring their survival. (For example, it could be agreed with Hongkong Post that if it is to do anything other than the basic routine maintenance to any of these boxes, prior consent from the Heritage Commissioner’s Office and/or the Antiques and Monuments Office must be obtained.)
Sin Wai Man
P.S. I have a letter on this published in SCMP on 10 July 2010. Perhaps for the benefit of the public the Heritage Commissioner’s Office could also respond to it.