Epidemics in Hong Kong: Story of the Tung Wah Smallpox Hospital Memorial Arch

Hong Kongers, the Coronavirus is not our first rodeo!! Various kinds of much more dangerous and deadly plagues and diseases have been invading Hong Kong over centuries. It is a history of humanity, living on this planet simply involves it and it is an intangible part of it.

Hong Kong has shown it is resilient and can withstand many different kinds of disasters be it typhoons, floods, droughts, economic crises, even wars but epidemics due to the density in HK have been sometimes tough to manage. During this tricky period for HK and now the world, i thought it might be interesting to share the story of the Tung Wah Smallpox Hospital, in Kennedy Town as reminder of the city's courage to counter a much more fiercer epidemic that Hong Kong has ever seen: the smallpox epidemic of the 1930's.

Now, the outbreak of bubonic plague happened in 1894. The first case occurred in May that year in Tai Ping Shan and quickly spread into entire city. There was an immediate need for a hospital. The first two established hospitals were run by European staff while the third one was staffed by Chinese personnel of the Tung Wah hospital. But even with the best treatment by the end of 1894 the plague had claimed over 2,500 victims (mortality rate of 70-90 percent)!! One-third of the population fled Hong Kong.

The Tung Wah Smallpox Hospital was originally erected in 1894 in Kennedy Town as a government-managed epidemic prevention clinic. The foundation stone of the new hospital was laid on 18th November 1901 by Sir Henry Blake, Governor of Hong Kong at that time.