Ada Wong tipped as culture minister
Gary Cheung, Olga Wong and Tony Cheung
Arts critic Ada Wong Ying-kay is expected to take up the post of culture minister to lead a newly created bureau, the South China Morning Post has learned.
The new culture bureau is to take over the duty of heritage conservation from the Development Bureau. Urban designers worry the change may defeat the current efficient mechanism of protecting heritage and result in a repeat of the King Yin Lei incident, in which a historic mansion was nearly demolished.
The proposed bureau, part of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying's government restructuring plans, is up for discussion in the Legislative Council today.
Both Wong, chief executive of the Institute of Contemporary Culture, and Ma Fung-kwok, former chairman of the Arts Development Council, had been tipped to head the body.
But joining the government would require Ma to give up his position as Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress and he did not want to do that, a source said yesterday.
Another person familiar with Leung's search for ministerial candidates also said Ma was unwilling to be culture minister. Ma had earlier stated his intention to run for the Legislative Council seat representing sports, performing arts, culture and publications in September's election.
Ma said he would not comment on the post.
It is understood that Leung has approached Wong recently about the post.
Wong said on radio yesterday that the new culture chief needed to be passionate about arts and culture. The minister's first priority would be to meet representatives from the creative community to discuss policies, including a review of arts education and the establishment of more venues, she said.
The duty of heritage conservation was passed from the Home Affairs Bureau to the Development Bureau when the latter was formed in 2007.
The change was meant to tackle public anger at the demolition of historic structures, including the Star Ferry clock tower and the King Yin Lei residence at Mid-Levels, a 1930s Chinese Renaissance building that has since been restored.
Under the restructuring, heritage conservation will be removed from the Development Bureau's work of urban planning. The culture minister will report to the Chief Secretary but the housing chief will report to the Financial Secretary.
Bernard Lim Wan-fung, president of the Institute of Urban Design, called the separation a step backward. It would not be conducive to the formation of a coherent policy on heritage protection, Lim said.
The institute's vice-president, Ng Wing-shun, said: 'Co-ordination will be difficult.
'Taking [heritage conservation] away from urban planning would mean repeating history.'
Ng said the city should have a comprehensive policy instead of saving heritage on a project basis.
Other likely ministers include the executive vice-president of Polytechnic University, Nicholas Yang Wai-hung, for technology and communications, and executive councillor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, for housing, planning and lands.