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West Kowloon Cultural District

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam urged to come clean on architect for Hong Kong Palace Museum

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan says she may invoke special Legco powers to find out if cultural district authority board knew about museum plan when it scrapped performance venue

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 January, 2017, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 12:09pm

Pressure is mounting on Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to explain why a top architect was “engaged” to work on plans for the controversial HK$3.5-billion Hong Kong Palace Museum before culture chiefs responsible for the site on which it would be built were told about it.

Lam – who is expected to resign as Hong Kong’s No 2 official to run in the chief executive election in March – also got an early taste of the election politicking ahead as the two declared hopefuls for the top job stressed the need for top officials to “respect public opinion”.

Carrie Lam defends plan for HK$3.5 billion Palace Museum over transparency concerns

Ahead of Monday’s launch of a public consultation on the museum plan, Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan – who is deputy chairwoman of the Legislative Council body which monitors projects in the West Kowloon Cultural District – warned she may seek to invoke Legislative Council special powers to question Lam.

The latest twist in the row centres on architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee, who is facing questions over a possible breach of professional ethics in relation to the project .

Lam’s potential rivals, pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, said on Sunday that the row over the museum underlined how important it was for officials to “respect public opinion”.

Hong Kong’s No 2 official makes ‘leadership pitch’ in Palace Museum row

Neither Yim nor Lam had responded to media questions by Sunday night.

Lam will not be at Monday’s public consultation event as she is visiting a school.

However, Yim, West Kowloon culture hub chief Duncan Pescod and vice-chairman Ronald Arculli will attend.

The controversy deepened on Saturday with the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority confirming that 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 Palace Museum plan and chose Yim as its “design consultant”.

On Friday, Lam said the “mega performance venue” plan was scrapped because of cost issues, not to make way for the museum. But Chan claimed the latest revelation showed Lam had “lied”.

“Lam should explain ... who asked the authority to skip all the proper steps and appoint Rocco Yim without the consent of the board,” she said, adding that she believed it was impossible for the authority not to know the site could be used to build the museum before it decided to drop the performance venue plan.

Speaking separately, Woo Kwok-hing said the secretary’s handling “has dealt a blow to the Hongkong people”. “How could she have not followed the established procedures … of conducting consultation?” Woo asked.

Regina Ip said if she became chief executive, she would “respect public opinion before big policies are introduced”.

Meanwhile , workers removed stickers of a white tank from the moving walkway in front of the wall displays of Beijing’s Forbidden City between the Central and Hong Kong MTR stations, which were erected on Friday. The stickers were a reference to the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

Meanwhile, John Tsang Chun-wah’s expected bid for the city’s leadership remains in limbo as Beijing has yet to approve his resignation as financial secretary tendered almost a month ago.