West Kowloon Cultural District

Second legal challenge in two months launched against Hong Kong Palace Museum deal

Activist Raphael Wong Ho-ming contends that authorities have violated laws on public consultation as well as racial discrimination

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 7:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 7:15pm

An activist has mounted a legal challenge against the government’s decision to build a local version of Beijing’s Palace Museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District – the second such attempt in two months to contest the lawfulness of the HK$3.5 billion project.

In a judicial review application filed at the High Court on Tuesday, League of Social Democrats external vice-chairman Raphael Wong Ho-ming asked the court to determine whether the decision of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority to pursue the museum plan was unlawful.

He accused the statutory body of failing to consult the public in accordance with section 19 of the West Kowloon Cultural District Ordinance before making the decision.

The activist named the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority as the only respondent, without targeting any individual officials.

The government announced in December the decision to build a museum spanning 10,000 square metres, which would house a permanent display of relics provided by the Palace Museum in Beijing.

The display is to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

It was revealed that the statutory body had approved the building plan at a special board meeting on November 28.

Former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, now the front runner in Hong Kong’s leadership race, drew criticism for a lack of transparency over the project after the authority – of which Lam is the board’s chair – admitted that architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee was appointed months before members were told about the plan.

In his submission, Wong argued that the body’s decision to favour “ethnically Chinese candidates” in appointing architects for the project was also unlawful as it would be contrary to section 10 of the Racial Discrimination Ordinance.

The activist requested the court to quash the authority’s decisions relating to the museum deal.

Wong’s claim was preceded by that of JR Group co-convenor Cary Lo Chun-yu, who argued that the process leading to the deal was in breach of the general procedures for implementing government projects.

The court has yet to fix a date for hearing Lo’s judicial review application, which was submitted on January 5.