West Kowloon Cultural District

Public consultation for Hong Kong Palace Museum project engaged 48,000 people, but arts insiders still sceptical

Cultural workers have dismissed the exercise and demanded a fresh round of talks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 8:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 9:41am

An eight-week public consultation on the proposed Palace Museum project had engaged more than 48,000 people in the form of an exhibition and web page visits, questionnaires and opinion polls, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority said on Thursday.

While the managing body of the arts hub was pleased with the good response, a former member on the authority’s advisory panel criticised the exercise as ineffective and one that only intensified public mistrust in the HK$3.5 billion project.

The public consultation – which ended on March 8 following a two-week extension – was initiated in January after a surprise announcement in December by then board chairwoman of the authority, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Many felt the exercise was aimed at soothing growing concerns over the transparency of the project, which would house imperial art collections on loan from the Palace Museum in Beijing.

As part of the consultation exercise, an exhibition – a collection of poster displays – held at City Gallery in Central drew 22,244 visitors, while a web page attracted 22,640 page views.

A total of 1,575 questionnaires were completed, while 58 submissions were received by post or email.

To further reach out to the community, the authority polled 1,805 people who were randomly selected on the streets across 18 districts between February 28 and March 7.

During the same period, five consultation sessions were held to register views from relevant stakeholders, such as architects and other professionals, as well as members of the arts and culture sectors.

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But cultural advocate Ada Wong Ying-kay, an authority consultation panel member since 2009 until last month, felt the exercise in which she participated was anything but effective.

“Each of us was limited to speak for only three minutes if you were lucky enough to have the slip with your name and question drawn from the box,” she said of the meeting on January 26.

“Instead of debating with research and knowledge, the exercise left some key questions unanswered, adding to mistrust in the project on social media,” she added.

The feedback received from the consultation exercise will be analysed, and the findings will be reported to the board of the authority.

But a group of cultural workers have already dismissed the consultation and demanded a fresh round of talks, saying the exercise had a “pre-determined position” and lacked transparency.

The group ARTicipants, which comprise critics, academics and professionals from the drama, music and film industries, turned in more than 600 signatures collected through an online petition in less than five days.