Hong Kong’s graft-buster to investigate Carrie Lam over museum deal, lawmaker says

But ICAC unable to confirm probe into leadership candidate’s role in approving project

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 11:21pm

Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency has launched an investigation into chief executive candidate Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s role in a deal to build a version of Beijing’s Palace Museum in the city, according to lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching.

During a Legislative Council debate on Hong Kong’s tourism policy on Wednesday, some lawmakers said the Palace Museum would become a major tourist attraction once completed in 2022.

When it was Mo’s turn to speak, she revealed that the Independent Commission Against Corruption had told her recently it has “opened a file” on her complaint involving Lam in January.

“Several colleagues mentioned that West Kowloon’s Palace Museum could become Hong Kong’s new tourist attraction, but I doubt it because questions were raised regarding the decision to build it,” she said.

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

“In early January, I reported to the ICAC over Carrie Lam’s handling of the Palace Museum deal, as I thought there could be an inappropriate transfer of benefits involved. It could constitute misconduct in public office. The ICAC replied and said it would open a file and [investigate] it,” she said.

But the ICAC responded by saying that “according to its policy, it, in general, will not comment on individual incidents”.

Lam’s election campaign office said the chief executive candidate had no further comments to make since the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority had already responded over the issue of architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee’s involvement.

The controversy erupted last December when Lam announced a surprise HK$3.5 billion deal with Beijing to create a Hong Kong version of the Palace Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District. Critics questioned the lack of a public consultation for the project, which would be fully funded by the Jockey Club and would not require Legco’s approval.

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

Though a consultation was launched eventually, it focused on the design and operation of the museum – not on whether Hong Kong should even build it.

The controversy deepened after the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority confirmed it had asked Yim to assess whether the site could “accommodate a multi-purpose venue and museum” months before its board decided not to build a mega performance venue, approved the museum plan, and chose Yim as its “design consultant”. Yim said he did not understand why the project was controversial.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC investigator, doubted the probe would affect Lam as she was Beijing’s preferred choice.

He said: “I hope the ICAC will carry out the probe impartially.”

Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung