West Kowloon Cultural District

Arts hub authority casts for new name

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 11:46am

The chief of the West Kowloon arts hub is searching for another name for the project to distance his HK$21.6 billion development from a list of political and funding scandals lengthening almost daily.

Michael Lynch, chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, conceded that its name was linked with controversy and said the authority was working on a rebranding campaign.

'I'm not sure if I will be consulting a fung shui master on the name,' Lynch told the South China Morning Post. 'I think we will use a more established marketing and branding company to help us do that.'

His revelation comes as controversy widened yesterday to possibly include former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Tung could be among the witnesses summoned to Legislative Council hearings on the project, which will start on Saturday, said Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, vice-chairman of the council's select committee.

The hearings, expected to take six weeks, were initiated by lawmakers who invoked special powers to investigate chief executive candidate Leung Chun-ying for a possible conflict of interest in a 2001 design contest for the arts hub. Leung was a juror and has been accused of failing to declare his business connection with an unsuccessful Malaysian contestant. Leung said he was not made aware of the relationship.

Other witnesses will include Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who served as Tung's secretary for planning and lands. Tung will be asked to testify 'when necessary', Cheng said.

Lynch, a veteran Australian arts administrator, said: 'The issue of the name is going to be an important part [of the project's development]. There are a lot of things happening, starting to point us to the right direction. [We are] going forward, rather than arguing or justifying what we [did] the last couple of years.'

He declined to say whether any potential names were under consideration.

Looking into the future, Lynch said the authority had started talks with the government on funding the hub's infrastructure separately, including the construction of a reactor that will turn food waste into biogas to provide at least some of the project's energy.

The reactor was proposed as part of the zero-carbon plan initiated by the hub's architect, Norman Foster. The plan was described as unfeasible in an assessment conducted by the authority's own consultant.

While admitting the authority had to take a realistic approach, Lynch said he had never given up on the plan.

'The three words - sustainable, accessible and connected - are still driving most of my thinking.

'I'm not going to make silly, outrageous or unrealistic promises about whether we will be able to achieve the zero-carbon plan. People have to be a bit realistic. Forty hectares on top of railway stations will be impacted by what's around it,' he said, implying that a zero-carbon emission target would be daunting.