West Kowloon Cultural District

Hong Kong public opinion split on Palace Museum project, consultation finds

But a closer look at the four methodologies involved yields varying support

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 10:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 11:18pm

Overall public opinion is split on the decision to build Hong Kong’s version of the Palace Museum in the city’s art hub, according to the findings of a consultation released to a panel on Friday.

A total of four methods were used in the consultation by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

These comprised face-to-face citywide interviews conducted with 1,805 people between February 28 and March 7, questionnaires sent out to the general public, written submissions received, and meetings held with stakeholders.

For a successful arts hub, listen to people

In the interviews, 52 per cent of respondents were supportive of the palace project, with 48 per cent either opposed to the plan or having no opinion.

The authority said all four methodologies in general found more supporters than opponents for the project.

But in questionnaires collected, less than half – 41.2 per cent – of respondents were supportive. This number fell to 34 per cent in meetings with stakeholders. It was only in the written submissions category that a clear majority – 73 per cent – supported the project.

Duncan Pescod, CEO of the authority, said the final results of the consultation will be presented to the board, which will determine the next course of action.

“Clearly they have to take a decision as to what happens next. The memorandum of understanding is in place, but the commitment to move will come through a collaborative agreement,” he said.

Pescod added that the next step was to understand why people have different views about the project, and follow up with more consultations.

Critic blasts arts policy but hopes Palace Museum can be ‘steroid’ that revives cultural hub

Yiu Si-wing, the lawmaker for the tourism sector who is also in a joint subcommittee that monitors the wider implementation of the West Kowloon Cultural District, said he was pleased to see more people in support of the palace project.

“Hong Kong has been called a cultural desert. With the Palace Museum, we will have more diversity to attract tourists.

“The West Kowloon Cultural District will feature mostly contemporary exhibits. It’s great to have some well-known pieces.”

Tanya Chan Suk-chong, a lawmaker who is in the same subcommittee, said however that she was not convinced by the consultation results.

“Given that the project seems a foregone conclusion with everything already in place, including Rocco Yim as the architect, the support figure of 52 per cent in the opinion poll is surprisingly low,” Chan said.

“There is also a problem with the consultation: it did not ask the key question of whether the city’s version of the Palace Museum should be built at all.”

Chou Chung-him, a member of the cultural concern group Articipant, said the local arts community still had very polarised views on whether to build the museum.

“I think the community lacks consensus, and people are particularly unhappy that proper procedures were not followed,” Chou said.