Authority endorses report showing ‘strong’ public support for Hong Kong Palace Museum project
Critics however question agenda and methodology of polls
A consultancy report that reflected “strong” public support for building Hong Kong’s version of the Palace Museum has been unanimously endorsed by the authority set to manage the project, with an aim to finalise a deal with Beijing by next month.
The approval came despite concerns over the transparency of the plan and methodology of the opinion polls, as well as two pending judicial reviews against the HK$3.5 billion project announced in December.
After widespread criticism of the planning process, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority tried to quell concerns by rolling out a six-week consultation exercise in January, which was later extended for two weeks to end on March 8.
Results of the consultation – revealed earlier at a discussion in April – were presented at the authority’s board meeting on Tuesday.
Board chairman and Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung announced after that members had unanimously endorsed the final report.
“The authority noted that the views collected through this exercise demonstrate clearly that there is strong support for the project to go ahead,” he said.
He added that the green light had been given to prepare the collaborative agreement, the final step in the paperwork with the Palace Museum in Beijing.
A memorandum of understanding signed between the two sides on December 23 was set to expire after six months, which means an official agreement for the project approval must be struck by June 23.
Cheung admitted the time frame was tight, especially with two pending judicial reviews.
“We will fully cooperate with the court to provide the necessary documents,” he said.
But critics have questioned how the report was interpreted.
One of the four channels of public engagement was through face-to-face interviews with 1,805 random people on the streets.
While some 52 per cent of respondents were supportive of the project, 14.7 per cent were against it and 33 per cent were mixed.
Cheung denied opinion was distorted when the board stated that the majority of views from the public were favourable.
“About 33 per cent returned a ‘half-half’ opinion ... that means some of them still believed the project has to be done,” he said.
The authority’s chief executive officer Duncan Pescod echoed Cheung’s comments.
“People are very prepared to make their [disapproval] clear; if they don’t support something, they will tell you. But people who support something may tend not to be quite so forthright,” he said.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan slammed the board’s decision, saying that rather than genuinely listening to public opinion, the consultation was only conducted to meet the legal requirements and avoid possible court challenges.