Belgium Queen Mathilde's visit to Hong Kong may boost cultural exchange

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 4:21am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 4:29am

Hong Kong is to have a royal visit that may boost international involvement in its culture hub.

Belgium's queen, Mathilde, arrives for a three-day visit on Wednesday as part of her first Asian tour since ascending to the throne four months ago.

Her mission involves finance and trade, but she is also likely to explore possibilities for her country's artists to perform at the West Kowloon Cultural District.

"Hong Kong is culturally significant … and Belgium is ready to contribute to that," the country's consul general, Evert Marechal, said yesterday.

"Belgium has a lot to offer, not only in the field of design but culture. As Hong Kong is doing a lot to build up its hardware, I think Belgium, with its rich cultural tradition, can offer a lot of software."

Queen Mathilde will head a 300-strong trade delegation that includes Belgium's deputy prime minister, some of the country's top designers, and businessmen.

Marechal said the idea of a cultural exchange would probably be raised with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying during the visit. "I certainly hope that will be in the discussion, although the queen's meeting will be very free with no specific hard issues ready to be discussed."

Marechal said design and creative industries had been important in the development of his country.

One possibility is for the two places to exchange exhibitions.

The visit is in support of the 2013 Business of Design Week being held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. Belgium is a partner of the event.

Mathilde will also indulge one of her own interests, with a visit to Benji's Centre, a social enterprise that helps children in need of speech therapy. She studied speech therapy at the Institut Libre Marie Haps in Brussels.

The mother of four children, the 40-year-old is married to King Philippe, who was crowned on July 21 after the abdication of his father, King Albert.