07 March 2010

No longer welcome

A notice taped to the village "Welcome" sign says it has to come down. What it actually says, in true government-speak, is that pursuant to the Lands (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance, in Chapter 28 of the Laws of Hong Kong, section 6, subsection 1, notice is given that under subsection 3 of the Ordinance, a structure unlawfully occupying public land without a licence must be removed or it will be demolished by an officer of the District Lands Office (Islands). Not only that, but whoever caused the infraction will be billed for costs incurred in its removal.

This is ironic because it was put there by our village's Dear Leader, in one of his rare acts of actually doing something for the benefit of the village and not just his relatives, without his being browbeaten into it. Originally there also were several directional signs, with inaccurate house numbers and awkward English translations, on laminated cardboard stapled to the pole, but the makeshift shabbiness only contributed to their rustic charm. The directional signs all blew off in various rainstorms, leaving a lone beacon of welcome for visitors to Wang Tong.

Ironic, too, that it is being forcibly removed by a government that is in love with signs. Even out here in the boondocks, official signs are everywhere, at ground level, eye level and administering overhead. Most government signs are authoritarian in nature: warnings, prohibitions, limitations, admonishments and directions. Beware of dangerous slope, along hillsides that people have walked beside for centuries; don't drink the water, no swimming, no dumping, get your flu jabs, empty your flower pot trays to prevent mosquitoes, cyclists dismount, this way, that way. The blurred green sign in the background of the photo warns against unauthorized entry to the slope maintenance staircase behind it. The whole island is cluttered with little metal badges identifying by number this slope, that tree, this drain. Worst of all are the brash, Stalinesque engraved steel plaques embedded in concrete pedestals, which self-congratulatorily proclaim credit to this or that government department for things that are actually part of their job. Will future generations continue to hail the Caesars responsible for a water pump, a public toilet or a bench? Irony of all ironies is a sign which boasts credit for putting up the sign above it.

And now they prepare to remove the only useful sign in the village, the only one which actually identifies us by name (in Chinese). Is this really just about a wooden pole which lacks a permit? By removing our collective identity, condemning an entire village to anonymity, and threatening to punish he who would dare stand up and shout the name Wang Tong to the world, by treating a warm welcome as a threat to its authority, is this government displaying its sinister true colors as a totalitarian regime?

Welcome to Wang Tong only until 10 March 2010. After that day, enter at your own risk.


  1. Expect a large, metal "government signage" in its place, welcoming people to Wang Tong, then going on to explain how to walk INTO Wang Tong (carefully place one foot in front of the other, then lift the foot on which you do not rest your body weight, etc) and how the government has saved everybody from certain death by cementing the stream. And BE CAREFUL at all times and watch out for wild animals.
    I don't think they (the government) will allow such a large, open space to be un-signaged for very long.

  2. I was thinking about signs last weekend as I was taking a long walk out near my house in Yuen Long. Basically every tree along the route has a sign and reference number on it. It would be interesting to know what the annual budget for tree labeling is in Hong Kong. I wonder how many people are employed to label and then monitor the labeled trees and what they actually do with this database?

  3. I think the secondary purpose of the tree database is for use on government projects when they decide a tree must be cleared for roadways or for so-called public safety. I think the primary reason is to spend the AFCD budget and keep civil servants employed.

  4. Interesting way of communicating information, that is for sure.

  5. "demolished"

    Sounds as if they will be bringing the heavy equipment--wrecking balls, bulldozers--or perhaps even a demolition explosives expert.

  6. Oh dear this is simply ridiculous. How fares the sign now Mr. Feign?

    PS I hope you update soon! :)

  7. The sign disappeared on March 11, the day after the deadline passed. At least you can say that the Hong Kong government is efficient!