Public space and British colonial power : the transformation of Hong Kong Statue Square

  • Wing Sze TAM

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This thesis analyzes the relationship between public space and government legitimacy through the emergence and transformation of Hong Kong Statue Square. It explains the colonial government’s construction of Statue Square in 1896 as a symbolic place to establish her legitimacy and present her imperial power. The construction of Statue Square also shows the mutually beneficial relationship between the colonial government and the foreign merchants in Hong Kong, especially Sir Catchick Paul Chater, who put great effort into the Praya Reclamation Scheme that made the establishment of Statue Square possible. By demonstrating their loyalty to the Crown through the construction of Statue Square and the erection of royal statues, they acquired economic profits and political power in return.

The thesis will also examine the changes in the spatial configuration and functions of Statue Square. Statue Square served as a significant ritual space in colonial Hong Kong. A variety of royal celebration rituals and the commemoration of Remembrance Day were carried out by the colonial government in the square and in front of the Cenotaph erected in 1923. Commoners were rarely invited to participate in these rituals. During Japanese Occupation period, Statue Square was almost devastated by Japanese troops. The Hong Kong government decided not to restore Statue Square in late 1946. It was converted into a car park in the 1950s and to an open public garden in 1964. Statue Square was no longer a symbol of royal legitimacy; it was changed from a royal ritual space into a public space. Many unofficial events were held in the square for public entertainment since the 1960s. Statue Square therefore is an important site for understanding the processes of colonization and decolonization of an urban landscape. It provides an important lens through which we can explore the changing nature of the administration of Hong Kong during the colonial period.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of History
SupervisorShuk Wah POON (Supervisor) & Grace Ai-ling CHOU (Supervisor)

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