After the first break out of the Plague in 1894, the Hong Kong Government was desperate in looking for the source and the ways of transmission, as well as ways to prevent another outbreak. Immediately after the first out break, the Public Works Office presented a “Scheme for the Improvement of the Resumes Area in the District of Tai Ping Shan” in 1895. The proposal was mainly suggesting to improve the situation first by sectoring the area, then changing width of lanes and demolishing some blocks and sell them, by which reorganising and rebuilding the whole area. In such, the concept of setting up public sanitary services was proposed for the first time, as the Director of the Public Works Office raised the fact that there is a need of “the erection of a new market and public latrines in the this area”.1 As one of the measures of preventing another outbreak of the Plague, it took the Government about 10 years to establish the first public bathroom for the native Chinese2 in Pound Lane of the Tai Ping Shan area, recorded in the Hong Kong Government Gazette, “a Public bath-house at Pound Lane with accommodation for 28 males and 10 females” was erected and opened.3 The founding of the first public bath house improved the hygienic condition of the locals and the concept of public sanitary services was soon widely accepted and supported. After around three decades, the number of public bath houses was increased. By 1939, there were 7 public bath houses situated all over Hong Kong.4


1 Francis. A. Cooper, (1895). Scheme for the Improvement of the Resumes Area in the District of Tai Ping Shan. Hong Kong: The Government of Hong Kong. Public Works Office, p.145.

2 Henry. A. Blake, (1901). The Legislative Council Minutes No.9. Hong Kong: The Government of Hong Kong, p.1340.

3 F.H. May, (1905). Report on the Health and Sanitary Condition of the Colony of Hong Kong, for the Year 1904. Hong Kong: The Government of Hong Kong, p.269.

4 W. J. Carrie, (1939). Report of the Chairman, Urban Council. Hong Kong: The Government of Hong Kong, M(1). p.16. Table V.


  1. I did not know that the creation of public bathrooms in Hong Kong, was a direct response to the outbreak of the plague. Thank you for this information. I would like to ask you if you could refer me to any statistics or data that shows whether or not this was an effective strategy, as that would be something I am interested in potentially. From the current state of affairs, it seems like public bathrooms in Hong Kong, are not in the ideal state of affairs, when it comes to hygiene and sanitation, at least the ones I have personally visited myself. If anything, they seem to be the breeding grounds of pests and insects, as most of them are not even regularly cleaned or controlled. The ones I have visited are those in the districts of Central, namely the public bathroom near Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai, near Lockhart Road and in Kennedy Town, near the Sai Wan Pier. None of these three, seem to be doing anything, in my opinion, in terms of public health and sanitation. In the past, I can only imagine, the situation being worse. So, coming back to my question, were these public bathrooms effective in the prevention of the spreading of plague? or was the purpose they served counterproductive?

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