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West Kowloon Cultural District

How the West Kowloon arts hub can help Hong Kong win back its edge over Shenzhen and Shanghai

Ken Chu says the West Kowloon Cultural District and the local Palace Museum it will house can burnish Hong Kong’s credentials as Asia’s World City, by pushing creative excellence and a modern approach to tradition

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2017, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2017, 7:03pm

The West Kowloon Cultural District should play a pivotal role in boosting Hong Kong’s position as the “world city” of Asia.

We always pride ourselves on our strengths in financial services, trade, communications and international business, but seem to forget that other key element which underscores most world-class cities, which is liveability, and art and culture play a significant role in this. Most cities at the top of the global liveability chart, such as New York, London, Vancouver and Berlin, have a common feature: their rich cultural heritage and a vibrant arts scene.

Unfortunately, Hong Kong is under threat. Shanghai has been forging ahead in finance. Shenzhen has also thundered forward in the past decade in the IT sector, and is now pushing hard to become a creative and cultural capital. If we want to maintain our position as Asia’s World City, we have to ride on the West Kowloon hub to further boost our art and culture sector.

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We have fallen behind Shenzhen in innovation and technology, but we can close the gap by excelling in arts and culture, given our rich cultural heritage and talent, and creative youth. This will help us to regain our competitive position as the “cultural gateway” in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.

To enhance our position as an arts hub and foster international exchange, the Hong Kong Palace Museum at West Kowloon can be a strong platform. It will exhibit many of China’s most precious historic artefacts, and tourists and connoisseurs will not have to travel to Beijing to view these treasures.

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The cultural district should do more to encourage our young talent to learn from the efforts of the Palace Museum in Beijing to rejuvenate its public image. For instance, the Beijing museum has partnered with Alibaba – owner of the South China Morning Post – to put interesting replica merchandise of exhibits on the shopping portal Taobao. I came across a Palace Museum Year 2018 calendar incorporating extracts of collections of Chinese calligraphy from the Song and Ming dynasties, which are exhibited at the museum. This is a great example of giving a modern touch to ancient artworks, and I am sure the Hong Kong Palace Museum would employ a similar approach to modernise and reach out to the public, especially millennials.

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I am also confident that, under new chairman Henry Tang Ying-yen, who has a flair for commerce, the cultural district will tap the creativity of our talented millennials, not just to rejuvenate the Hong Kong Palace Museum but the entire upcoming hub.

Dr Ken Chu is group chairman and CEO of the Mission Hills Group and a National Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference