West Kowloon Cultural District

Call for fresh talks on Palace Museum project as public consultation ends

Cultural group, which started a petition to restart discussion, wants arts hub’s managing body to ditch its “pre-determined” stance and boost transparency

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 10:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 10:56pm

Cultural workers have dismissed the controversial public consultation on the proposed HK$3.5 billion Palace Museum at the West Kowloon arts hub, which ended yesterday, and demanded a fresh round of talks.

The group ARTicipants, which comprise critics, academics and professionals from the drama, music and film industries, submitted more than 600 signatures to the arts hub’s managing body, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, urging it to scrap its “pre-determined position” and improve transparency.

But a WKCDA board member, Professor Kan Tai-keung, fired back, saying members of the public were given ample opportunities to express their views, including any opposition to the project. “I don’t understand their logic,” he said, in reference to the group’s criticism.

Critics also argued the exercise was announced after details of the HK$3.5 billion project had been settled, such as the location, operation mode and even design, with a memorandum of understanding being signed in December.

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The eight-week consultation, which was originally scheduled to end on February 22, was extended for two weeks until yesterday.

But this extension appeared not to be sufficient as ARTicipants felt the four consultation sessions – to get opinions from different sectors – included only those who favoured the construction of a complex which would house imperial art collections rented from the Palace Museum in Beijing.

“Many of the sessions were by invitation only. But when we asked for the selection criteria, there was no answer from [the authority],” ARTicipants member and songwriter Adrian Chow Pok-yin said.

Wan Chai district councillor Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying, who is also a cultural critic, said she was disappointed after accepting an invitation to attend one of the sessions. “I felt there was a pre-determined position. The host asked questions which led to favourable answers,” she said.

But Kan said it was impossible to manipulate public opinion.

Public consultation on Hong Kong’s Palace Museum extended until March 8

“How are we able to cherry-pick people who support the project?” he said. “These people came from different backgrounds and represented many sectors.”

Asked about the stance of the questionnaire, Kan pointed out that the seventh and final question – which asked for “any other comments or suggestions” – offered a chance for people to freely express their views.

But Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said the consultation seemed to have dodged the core issues surrounding the project, such as why such a museum was needed and what role it should play.

“The content provided at the exhibition was so weak. How do you expect people to give meaningful feedback?” she asked.

Last Friday, ARTicipants organised an online petition calling on the authority to restart the consultation. It received 621 signatures in fewer than five days.

A representative from the authority received the petition letter yesterday, but said he had nothing to add at the moment.

Asked on the group’s next move, Chow said it was now engaging with the three chief executive candidates to pitch its aspirations, adding there were “more to come” before the June 22 deadline for the signing of the official agreement between Hong Kong and Beijing.

Separately, a survey of 1,087 people by the pro-establishment DAB party last month revealed 61.2 per cent of respondents supported the construction of the Palace Museum.

Around 55.8 per cent of the respondents also thought that the location should be within the West Kowloon Cultural District.