In the June issue of Heritage, a newsletter published by the heritage commissioner’s office, it was reported that the office “is in discussion with Hongkong Post to find ways to preserve a total of nine postboxes dating back to the colonial era”.
There are currently 61 historic postboxes in Hong Kong and it is inexplicable that only nine of them are to be preserved.
I am concerned that this preservation exercise will be viewed by Hongkong Post as a licence to get rid of the other 52 boxes, either through active replacement or quiet deterioration due to lack of maintenance.
This suspicion is not ungrounded as about two-thirds of the 144 old boxes that still existed in 1997 have already been removed.
We might do well in this preservation exercise to learn from England.
Since 2002, Royal Mail has collaborated with English Heritage to retain and conserve all its 85,000 postboxes in England. A few points from “Letter Boxes: A Joint Policy Statement by Royal Mail and English Heritage” are highlighted:
All boxes are to be retained in operational services in their existing positions;
The conservation officer of the local planning authority must be consulted if any problems arise with regard to individual boxes;
Postboxes must be repainted at least every three years and more frequently in some cases, for example, coastal areas where abnormal levels of deterioration occur;
All paint must be lead-free and of the correct specification; and
Letter boxes should be washed regularly to ensure a smart appearance.
These points are all relevant to the local situation. Especially illuminating is the commitment to retain all 85,000 boxes. This puts our proposal to preserve only nine of our 61 old letter boxes to shame.
In our case, it could be further suggested that the old boxes be repainted in their original red and black colours, and more active maintenance and repair than just repainting should be accorded to some of the old ones.
One good example of what could be achieved by committed and professional maintenance and repair is the King George V postbox at Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island. In its letter (“Postbox too badly damaged”, February 18), Hongkong Post maintained that the box, due to “serious internal rusting which caused extensive structural damage and even prevented the door hinges from functioning properly”, was beyond repair and had to be scrapped.
It is now understood that, in May, Hongkong Post changed its mind and sought assistance from the Architectural Services Department to repair the box. It has been restored and put back in its original position, actively serving the Sok Kwu Wan community again. One could only hope that this box has had a change of fortune not only because it is one of the chosen nine.
Sin Wai-man, Chai Wan