Central Police Station

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History of the CPS Compound

Captain William CaineCaptain William Caine

I am Captain William Caine, the founder of the Central Police Station Compound. To study the compound one must begin from 1841 when Hong Kong became a free-trade port. On 30 April 1841, Captain Charles Elliott, Chief Superintendent of the Trade of British Subjects in China, appointed me, Captain William Caine of the 26th foot regiment to the post of Chief Magistrate, responsible for public security and sentencing of criminals. This role is very much akin to the county magistrate of the Chinese administrative system, who had power over arrest, conviction and imprisonment. This was why William Caine gathered all of these departments in one place to facilitate management, and to save time on the transport of criminals.

Follow me if you want to know more about the formation of legal organs.

The most prominent characteristic of the Central Police Station Compound is that one can witness here the “one-stop” model of justice in the past. The buildings are connected by walkways or tunnels. The suspects were charged at the Central Police Station, and immediately taken to stand trial at the Central Magistrate. Upon sentencing they were immediately transferred to Victoria Prison where they will serve their prison term. The entire process did not require the prisoner setting foot outside the compound, making the work safer and more effective.

As the compound is built along the hillside, platforms of various heights were put in place to help the buildings stay aligned with one another. In a way this arrangement reflects the overall cityscape of Hong Kong Island. As of today the compound comprises 27 buildings, of which 16 are designated historic buildings, mostly built around the Victorian and Edwardian periods. They present a stark contrast with nearby modern commercial buildings. In accordance with the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, the authorities have designated the 3 building clusters as Declared Monuments, and afforded protection accordingly.

The Central Police Station Compound took up a land area of 22,150 square metres. It is a living record of the legal, judiciary and penal system of early Hong Kong. In the past, preservation of this set of monuments was rarely mentioned among the public. It was not until 2003 when the first Chief Executive Tung Chee Wah proposed in his Policy Address that private organizations should be involved in developing the compound into a retail, dining and entertainment area, that social discussions blossomed.

The compound concluded its historical mission in 2006. The following year, the SAR Government allowed the Hong Kong Jockey Club to sponsor HK$180 million under a non-profiting model toward the revitalisation of the compound. The revitalisation works included 16 historic buildings, two open yards. Two new buildings will be built on two sides of the Prison Yard of the Victoria Prison to serve as a comprehensive cultural venue. They are expected to commence operations in late 2014.

Victoria Prison
Victoria Prison

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