Peak District Reservation Ordinance 1904

The Peak District Reservation Ordinance 1904,[1] originally enacted as the Hill District Reservation Ordinance,[2][3][4] is commonly called the Peak Reservation Ordinance and was a zoning law that reserved most of the Victoria Peak as a place of residence to non-Chinese people except with the consent of the Governor-in-Council.[3][5] The law was in force from 1904 to 1930 where the deadly Third Pandemic of Bubonic plague took place in China, causing 100,000 deaths,[6] and enormous number of Chinese influxed into Hong Kong,[7] causing the 1894 Hong Kong plague. Contemporary historians’ views toward the Ordinance vary, with some[8][9] attributing the Ordinance to health segregation, whereas others[5] attribute it to social status segregation. The debate on the second reading of the Bill is recorded in the Hong Kong Hansard,[10] which shows that the two Chinese members, Ho Kai and Wei Yuk, did not oppose the Bill but a minority of the "leading Chinese" in the community were against it.

Peak District Reservation Ordinance 1904
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Legislative Council of Hong Kong
  • An ordinance for the reservation of a Residential Area in the Peak-District.
Enacted byLegislative Council
Assented to29 April 1904 (1904-04-29)
Signed byFrancis Henry May, Acting Governor
Signed29 April 1904 (1904-04-29)
Commenced15 July 1904 (1904-07-15)
Repealed5 December 1930 (1930-12-05)
Legislative history
Introduced bySir H. S. Berkeley, Attorney-General
First reading28 March 1904
Second reading19 April 1904
Third reading26 April 1904
Repealed by
Law Revision Ordinance 1930
Status: Repealed
Peak District Reservation Ordinance 1904
Traditional Chinese山頂區保留條例


1894 Hong Kong plagueEdit

In 1894, the deadly Third Pandemic of Bubonic plague spread from China to Hong Kong, causing 100,000 deaths in Canton alone within two months [6] and subsequently the 1894 Hong Kong plague. Dr. Gomes da Silva, the Principal Medical Officer of Macao, in recording the sanitary condition of the Chinese population, observed that they usually threw house refuse into the street, where it accumulated until such time as the torrential summer rains and the overflow of the Pearl River cleared it away. A study by City University of Hong Kong also attributes the spread of plague to the hygiene and sanitary condition among local population at the time.[11] Governor of Hong Kong Sir William Robinson reported to the British Government that "the filthy habits of life amongst the 210,000 Chinese who reside here have rendered Hong Kong liable to the invasion and development of the germ of the bubonic plague".[12]

In the late 1890s, Europeans who resided in the City of Victoria gradually moved to places of higher altitude to evade such living conditions. But as the Chinese population continued to increase in the city, and the Europeans were reaching Victoria Peak thus could not move any higher, the Hong Kong Government decided to reserve the Peak for Europeans and other non-Chinese. In the 1904 Government Gazette explained that such reservation of the district was to address such concerns over the health of European people.[8] Between 1894 and 1929, the plague caused 24,000 case of infection in Hong Kong, of which 90% were fatal.[13] In 1929, the plague was eradicated and the law was repealed in 1930 by the Law Revision Ordinance 1930.[14]

Segregation by social statusEdit

20th century Journalist[15] Trea Wiltshire, in her book "Old Hong Kong", believes the Hill District Reservation Ordinance was a law based on social segregation as its goal. At the time one's social status was measured by the altitude of one's residence.[5] One incidental benefit that came with the law included the reservation of the Peak Tram at certain hours of the day.[5] From 8 to 10 am, the tram service was for top officials, first class passengers only, thus guaranteed good commute time.[5] The front seat of the tram was always reserved for the governor, who further accorded its desirable social status by building a summer retreat, the Mountain Lodge.[5] The Peak at the time was referred to by the British as "Little England".[16] Many of the upper-middle class household members would have a dozen to 20 Chinese servants.[16]


According to the ordinance, the peak District means "all that area in the Island of Hongkong situated above the 788 feet contour and to the west of a line drawn in a north and south direction through Middle or Cemetery Gap, including the hills known as Mount Cameron, Mount Gough, Mount Kellett and Victoria Peak".

Similar ordinancesEdit

Other historical racially based zoning law in Hong Kong.

  • Light and Pass Ordinance, 1888
    • The law exclusively required Chinese residents to carry a lamp when passing at night.[17] The law was believed originally established under the assumption that all Chinese residents of the colony were potential criminals.[18]
  • Peak District (Residence) Ordinance, 1918, repealed in 1946[4][19][20]
  • Cheung Chau (Residence) Ordinance, 1919[4][19] repealed in 1946[20]

Other historical zoning laws in Hong Kong.

  • European District Reservation Ordinance, 1888 (April 1888)[21][22]
    • It applied to parts of the City of Victoria that already had European-style Single-family detached houses. The Ordinance was classified as a town planning and rent control law under Governor Des Vœux's administration. It required buildings in certain areas of Hong Kong to comply with the single-family detached home model, rather than the native, extremely crowded, Chinese model that land owners usually offered, which maximised profits. There was no exclusion by race, only by the type of buildings that could be built and a limit on the number of occupants.[19][23]


The ordinance stated that "It shall be lawful for the Governor-in-Council to exempt any Chinese from the operation of this Ordinance on such terms as the Governor-in-Council shall think fit". Such exemptions were invoked for such personalities as First Lady of the Republic of China Madame Chiang Kai-shek[8] and Eurasian millionaire Sir Robert Ho-Tung and his family who already had a retreat on the slopes of the Peak.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Text of the Peak District Reservation Ordinance, 1904
  2. ^ Text of the Hill District Reservation Ordinance
  3. ^ a b "Council Sittiing Record of Legislative Council of Hong Kong" (PDF) (Press release). Legislative Council of Hong Kong. 28 March 1904. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Lai, Lawrence Wai-Chung; Weicong Li; Ki Fong (2000). Town Planning Practice: Context, Procedures and Statistics for Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. p. 13. ISBN 9789622095168.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced 2003). Old Hong Kong – Volume Two. Central, Hong Kong: Text Form Asia books Ltd. Page 21. ISBN Volume One 962-7283-60-6. pg 21
  6. ^ a b Cohn, Samuel K. (2003). The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe. A Hodder Arnold. p. 336. ISBN 0-340-70646-5.
  7. ^ Legislative Council of Hong Kong (1904), Official Record of Proceedings, 1904.04.19., Legislative Council of Hong Kong, retrieved 7 August 2018
  8. ^ a b c Wordie, Jason (2002). Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. pp. 74–75. ISBN 962-209-563-1.
  9. ^ 香港早期醫療
  10. ^ Hansard for the Legislative Council meeting on 19 April 1904.
  11. ^ Early history of medical service in Hong Kong(香港早期醫療服務), City University of Hong Kong. Retrieved 8 July 2008
  12. ^ Pryor, E.G. (1975). "The Great Plague of Hong Kong" (PDF). Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Hong Kong: Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Hong Kong Branch (Hong Kong Branch). 1975: 65.
  13. ^ Pryor, E.G. (1975). "The Great Plague of Hong Kong" (PDF). Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Hong Kong: Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Hong Kong Branch (Hong Kong Branch). 1975: 69.
  14. ^ "Ordinance No. 25 of 1930" (PDF). Hong Kong Government Gazette: 620. 5 December 1930.
  15. ^ FormAsia authos
  16. ^ a b Courtauld, Caroline. Holdsworth, May. The Hong Kong Story. Hong Kong publishing, Oxford university press. ISBN 0-19-590353-6. pg 46.
  17. ^ Jung-fang Tsai. [1995] (1995). Hong Kong in Chinese History: Community and Social Unrest in the British Colony, 1842–1913. Columbia University Press. 1995. ISBN 0-231-07933-8, ISBN 978-0-231-07933-4.
  18. ^ Munn, Christopher. [2001] (2001). Anglo-China: Chinese People and British Rule in Hong Kong, 1841–1880. ISBN 0-7007-1298-4, ISBN 978-0-7007-1298-4.
  19. ^ a b c Tubbs, Clawson, Floyd R., Robert W. (2000). Stahlhelm: Evolution of the German Steel Helmet. Kent State University Press. p. 15. ISBN 9780873386777.
  20. ^ a b Minutes of the meeting of the Hong Kong Legislative Council held on 19 July 1946
  21. ^ Legislative Council Report 27 March 1888
  22. ^ Town planning practice By Lawrence Wai-Chung Lai, Weicong Li, Ki Fong
  23. ^ Society By David Faure