The permanent “Hong Kong Story” exhibition at Tsim Sha Tsui’s Museum of History was closed on Monday for an extensive revamp. It is expected to remain closed for over two years.
Opened in 2001, the exhibition occupied over 7,000 square metres – consisting of eight galleries. The displays explored the city’s natural environment and prehistoric history, folk culture and development during the Han to Qing dynasties.
Also included was the Sino-British opium wars, its cession to Britain, the Japanese occupation during World War II and Hong Kong’s post-war transformation into a metropolis.
The government announced the relaunch plan in 2015 and initiated a series of consultations.
Since then, the city has experienced a year of political turmoil with pro-democracy protests triggered by an extradition bill and Beijing’s implementation of a broad-ranging security law to stifle dissent.
However, the 2019 protests and unrest will not be included in the revamped exhibition, according to RTHK citing a source.
The now-closed galleries were arranged in a largely chronological order ending in 1997.
Pre-1997 political events included the 1956 “Double Ten” riots between Kuomintang supporters and Communist Party supporters, the 1967 leftist riots and the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre in the existing exhibition will remain.
The old exhibition also discussed the Sino-British Joint Declaration that promised that Hongkongers’ lifestyles should remain unchanged for 50 years from the handover. Though, in recent years, top officials have repeatedly declared that the agreement is a historical document and of no practical significance.
Politically sensitive events, the RTHK source said, will – in the future – be presented via multimedia and less text in order order to avoid controversies. They added that the collective effort against the 2003 SARS epidemic and the largely peaceful 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement will be included.
A spokesperson for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages public museums, said the natural history section will be removed.
The new permanent exhibition will be divided into two major sections – one that walks visitors through Hong Kong history chronologically, from prehistoric times to 21st century urban development.
The other will be regularly updated and will revolve around certain themes such as Chinese migration and ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, RTHK’s source said.
Jacky Yu – a history enthusiast and founder of the popular “Old HK Photo” Facebook page – also revealed that the museum invited him to include his research on the territory’s coastlines in the new exhibition.
He said the authorities also requested that he work on a section about Hong Kong-China cross-border integration. Yu rejected the request, saying he was not an expert. He said he later received a phone call removing him from the project.
Last minute visits
With concerns over potential political censorship, visitors flocked to the museum over the weekend.
Hundreds were seen queuing on Saturday and Sunday, with many parents bringing their children.
In front of the Sino-British Joint Declaration description that stated “50-years unchanged” – one mother was spotted by a Stand News reporter telling her daughter that the promise no longer exists.
Some sang the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong” and chanted the banned slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”
A man holds his mobile phone which displays “liberate” in Chinese that alters the meaning of Jia Zemin’s calligraphy. In the exhibited photo, the sentence reads “Hong Kong’s tomorrow is better” in the former Chinese Communist Party general secretary’s writing. Addition of the word changes the sentence to: “Liberate Hong Kong. Tomorrow gets better.”