Before the breakout of the plague in 1894, Hong Kong’s insanitary was already well known. In 1854, the Crown appointed J. Carroll Dempster as the Colonial Surgeon to investigate Hong Kong’s condition in terms of hygiene and public health. In his Subjoined Medical Report, he criticize the filthiness of the Tai Ping Shan, the most affected area during the plague, and depicted “the Lanes (certainly not streets) are in a most objectionable state, containing almost invariably cowsheds, pigsties, stagnant pools – the receptacles of every kind of filth, all which nuisances have remained unheeded for a considerable time”. 1  This is mainly because the Tai Ping Shan area was mainly accommodating the natives as a poorer class. These tenement houses were constructed without proper drainage systems or washrooms for the habitant to utilize, therefore they would respond to the nature’s call at the nearby back lanes or streets, turning the neighborhood as the best environment for the growth of diseases. Well described in the account of Dempster, “the Dwellings of the Natives are faulty in construction, being erected apparently with the view of having the greatest number in the smallest possible space, and without and regard to Ventilation and Drainage…[it is very common to observe] the laying out to dry of large quantities of manure on small patched of ground in the rear of this locality, and in many instances adjoining the Upper of Western Road,” 1 Moreover, the lack of public education on sanitary and establishment of well maintained public sanitary services gave breed to the plague later on.


1 W.Caine, (1855). The Hong Kong Government Gazette. Victoria, Hong Kong: The Government of Hong Kong, p.385 – 359.


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