Renaming Hong Kong airport: Sun Yat-sen better than Chek Lap Kok?
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Renaming Hong Kong airport: Sun Yat-sen better than Chek Lap Kok?

Leonardo da Vinci, Benito Juárez, John F Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln: some of the personalities immortalized, among other things, by airports named after them. In the case of Hong Kong, a group of aviation enthusiasts are proposing that “Sun Yat-sen International Airport” be the new name of Hong Kong International Airport. This is in line with the centenary of the 1911 revolution on which Sun Yat-sen was a prominent figure in overthrowing China’s last imperial dynasty.

The city’s aviation gateway is also known as Chek Lap Kok, named after an island flattened and extended to make way for the current airport to be built in the ’90s.

“Not just the father of the nation, you could say he [Sun] was also the father of aviation in China,” said Gordon Andreassand, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Historical Aviation Society.

Mr Andreassand’s speech at the inauguration of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology‘s aeronautic-interest group sparked interest among student population that a petition to rename Hong Kong International Airport after the revolutionary leader.

With Sun Yat-sen’s experience in the aviation industry – he was credited as the first person to build an aeroplane in China in 1923 – he deserved to have an airport named after him more than many others. Hong Kong is an appropriate location, advocates say, noting that his mother was buried in the city and in 1923 he credits the University of Hong Kong as his intellectual birthplace.

But this airport name change request could face a number of obstacles. For one, it’s notable in mainland China that no big airports are named after famous people in history. Thus, Beijing, which has sovereignty over Hong Kong, might object to the name-change plan.

If an airport has a pretty good record in service or facilities, then it brings even more honor to the figure it’s named after. But what about Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Manila’s Ninoy Aquino airport, named after the father of the current Philippine president, get bad reputation as among the worst airports in the world? For Hong Kong, it’s on the other side of the yardstick, receiving awards and recognitions for years. The risk of potential PR nightmare is not that high.

But for Airport Authority, which says it has no plan to change Chek Lap Kok name at the moment, even the centenary of a historical event may not be enough to persuade it to rename the airport.

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