Tai Kwun

Brief History of the Central Police Station compound

With a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century, the site comprises some of the earliest structures built under British colonial rule. Through the generations, it has been a site that constantly evolved to meet the needs of Hong Kong law enforcement.

The site is a unique cluster of relatively low-rise buildings sitting in a prime location in the heart of Central, Hong Kong. Its significance was officially recognised in 1995 when the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison were listed as Declared Monuments.

Historical Timeline

Beginning Stage
The National Archives

Captain William Caine was appointed Chief Magistrate to establish law and order and oversee the construction of the first magistrate's house with gaol (jail) in Hong Kong.


The Colonial Police Force was officially established. Charles May was appointed Superintendent of Police and suggested the reconstruction of the prison and a new magistracy.

Credit: The National Archives

Prison overcrowding due to an increase in population and crime led to the redevelopment of Gaol based on a radial plan.

Credit: The National Archives

By 1864, the construction of Barrack Block was completed as a principle central police station with drill gournd attached. The site began to serve the functions of police station, magistracy and prison, forming a close-knitted law enforcement system.

Development Stage
The National Archives

In 1893, Governor Sir William Robinson approved a further prison extension. New buildings were added and part of the radial-plan prison was demolished leaving a T-shaped prison building.


The Former Central Magistracy was reconstructed in 1914 to house two courtrooms. The new building opened for its first judicial session in April 1915.


A new Police Headquarters Block was built at the north of the Barrack Block. The façade facing Hollywood Road was built in Neo-Classical style.


Prisons came under the charge of the Prisons Department.


Ho Chi-minh, the Former Vietnamese communist leader, was arrested by the British authorities in Hong Kong and was held in Victoria Gaol.

Challenging Stage
Original colours of the photo has been changed

Victoria Gaol was briefly closed in 1937 after the prisoners were transferred to the newly-built Stanley Prison. It reopened in 1939 and part of the Victoria Gaol was turned into the Victoria Remand Prison.


The compound suffered severe bomb damage in December 1941 and was subsequently used by the Japanese military until the end of World War II.


The Former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison reopened after the post-war repairs.


During the 1967 Riots, riot squadrons were mobilised to respond to emergency situations on Hong Kong Island. A control room was set up at the former Central Police Station to make arrangements for daily necessities and routines, such as food, rest, accommodation and duties. Many riot-related cases were tried at the Former Central Magistracy and the Victoria Remand Prison served as a place of detention.

Transitional Stage

The Former Victoria Prison was functionally changed into Victoria Reception Centre in 1967. A decade later, with the opening of Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Victoria Reception Centre returned to its original function and was renamed the Victoria Prison.


The Former Central Magistracy was decommissioned in 1979. The building was converted into Supreme Court Annex in 1980. In 1984, the Former Central Magistracy building ended its judiciary function. Later, the building was used by both the Police and the Immigration Department.


Due to the influx of illegal immigrants from mainland China, the government put an end to the 'Touch-Base Policy', meaning illegal immigrants could no longer obtain Hong Kong identity from 26 October onwards. Victoria Immigration Centre was set up on 27 October in the Former Victoria Prison to process immigration offenders.


The Prisons Department was renamed the Correctional Services Department. Rehabilitation has then become one of the main foci of correctional services. Bauhinia House, which had once been a guard house in the 19th century, was converted into a half-way house for female inmates under supervision.


The Former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison became declared monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.


The Former Central Police Station was decommissioned in 2004, followed by the Victoria Prison in 2006.

Revitalisating Stage

In 2007, The Government of the Hong Kong SAR and The Hong Kong Jockey Club announced a not-for-profit plan to fund the revitalisation of the Central Police Station compound.