Public participation on Hong Kong Palace Museum needed, but undisclosed details may overshadow process, advocate warns
Ada Wong Ying-kay not confident in government’s six-week consultation process
Participation, not consultation, is what the Hong Kong people need to connect with the government’s Palace Museum development, but a lack of transparency surrounding the project has bred criticism, a member of West Kowloon Cultural District consultation panel said.
Veteran arts advocate Ada Wong Ying-kay, one of the 16 members of the consultation panel that will serve as a bridge between the WKCD Authority and the public, said community participation was essential to fostering contemporary culture.
“Participation connects people through creating something together, and that’s the latest world trend,” Wong said on a radio programme on Monday – the first day of a six-week public consultation on the palace museum project.
“As a bridge with the public, we didn’t play our role well because we were not informed of everything,” she added.
She recalled the last consultation panel meeting on September 23 when there was no mention of a “mega performance venue”, which was initially proposed for the site but abandoned by the WKCD Authority’s board.
The board in November approved the area to house the future Hong Kong Palace Museum, which is a collaboration with Beijing’s Palace Museum.
The construction is slated for completion by 2022 and will be funded by a HK$3.5 billion donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.
Announced at a signing ceremony in Beijing on December 23, the project quickly drew criticism for the government’s lack of public consultation. During a special Legislative meeting last Friday, Chief Secretary and WKCD chair Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said public consultation would be sought on the museum for six weeks.
Wong welcomed the decision, saying the museum in West Kowloon could strengthen the city’s role in housing national treasures from Beijing, Taipei and the British Museum.
“So the project itself may not be bad, but the government has some explaining to do in how it came about and the subsequent process,” she said.
But comparing the six-week Palace Museum public consultation process to others, which have been known to go on for up to two years, Wong said it was “not enough” and that she was not optimistic about it.
“With new information coming out almost every day in the media, I am afraid the consultation will just keep drilling on the government for undisclosed details of the project,” she said.
“The incomplete disclosure is not a smart move as it breeds conspiracy theories when people see it in the news,” she added, referring to the government approaching architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee for the project in June 2016, months before the news was made public.
The process would also be complicated by the forthcoming election of the Chief Executive. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam is expected to resign from her government duties this Thursday to officially announce her candidacy.
“People can slam the palace museum project during the consultation, but at the end of the day we need to ask, what’s next?” Wong said.