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West Kowloon Cultural District

Decision to build Hong Kong Palace Museum at West Kowloon Cultural District only revealed to board last month, member claims

Lawmaker on panel monitoring arts hub implementation says public should have been consulted before plan was announced

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 December, 2016, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 December, 2016, 3:24pm

The plan to build a HK$3.5 billion Hong Kong version of Beijing’s Palace Museum in West Kowloon Cultural District was only made known to the district authority’s board during a meeting about a month ago, a member has revealed.

Chris Ip Ngo-tung, a member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority board, also said preparations had begun for the Hong Kong Palace Museum when members were first briefed about the plan during the meeting in November.

On Friday, the government announced it would build a 10,000 sq m museum housing a permanent display of relics provided by the Palace Museum on a long-term and regular basis to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

But critics slammed the government for not seeking public consultation for the project and raised questions whether its decision in September to scrap a performance venue – citing a sufficient number of performance venues in the city – was to make way for the new museum.

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Speaking on a radio programme on Monday, Ip said he understood that board members only learned about the plan to build the local museum at a meeting in November during which they generally expressed support for the project.

He claimed preparations for the museum had already begun before the meeting. He added that the government at the meeting updated members about the Jockey Club’s provision of the HK$3.5 billion funding and said prominent local architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee would lead the project.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last week dismissed suggestions that the Jockey Club donation was meant to circumvent funding approval from lawmakers, insisting prior public consultation was unnecessary.

Lam also said she would have thought many Hongkongers would be “very happy about this project”.

Ip denied he felt pressured to support the plan and said he believed no extraordinary consideration was given to the project.

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But Tanya Chan, deputy chairwoman of a Legco panel monitoring the West Kowloon Cultural District, said on the programme the public should have been consulted before the plan was announced.

She pointed to section 19 of the WKCDA Ordinance that states “the Authority shall, in relation to matters concerning the development or operation of arts and cultural facilities, related facilities, ancillary facilities and any other matters as the Authority considers fit, consult the public at such time and in such manner as it considers appropriate”.

But Ip thought public consultation was not necessary this time, arguing the plan was a special case.

“The palace museum exhibits are grade one artefacts, so there are some privacy concerns,” he said.