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Colt 499 PWP

Vivian Yan, Author

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Neon enters Hong Kong

In February 1940, the China Light and Power electric company opened the new Hok Un power station after previous additions and reconstructions.1 Within a few years, demand for power grew significantly as the population of Hong Kong increased due to the end of World War II and the start of the Chinese Civil War. When, in 1949, the People's Republic of China was established with the rise of the Communist Party, many people fleeing the mainland resettled in Hong Kong. Over the next several decades, population levels would continue to explode with immigration from mainland China, southeast Asia, and other regions. From 1948-1951, China Light recorded an increase of power output of five times.2 

As electricity output grew to meet the demands of a booming population and an overcrowding city, so the popularity of neon signs increased. Signs came to represent both the brand of a store and its status, becoming symbols for the companies themselves. They thus served multiple functions, acting both as a physical sign and as a sign of the store, its quality, its history - and, arguably, its place in the Hong Kong cultural sphere. 

Neon lights still remain popular on street advertisements today. However, in recent years many businesses have opted for acrylic lightbox signs, or silk screen printing on vinyl.3 

3Elson Cheng Chong-kuen, "Discovering Signs: A Study of Cantilever Neon Signage as a Post-war Urban Vernacular Heritage of Hong Kong" (MSc diss., University of Hong Kong, 2009).
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