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West Kowloon Cultural District

‘Not all of you need to go into banking’ Hong Kong’s No 2 official tells youth after museum controversy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 9:17am

Hong Kong’s No 2 official has reached out to the city’s youth in trying to justify her controversial deal with Beijing to build a HK$3.5 billion museum, saying it would send out an encouraging message that “not all of you need to go into banking”.

The issue is seen as a leadership test for Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, whose expected bid for the city’s top job was the subject of more speculation as it emerged on Monday that a company was set up by Ronald Arculli in October, and Laurence Li was appointed director in December. The two are core members of Lam’s planned campaign committee.

While no link to Lam has been made, it has not stopped speculation that she might have planned to run before Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced last month that he would not seek a second term.

Also on Monday, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, whose board Lam chairs, announced that the launch of a public consultation on the design and operation of the Hong Kong Palace museum had been abruptly postponed less than one hour before it was scheduled to begin.

The authority said the meeting was deferred to this (Tuesday) afternoon following a scheduled meeting of the board as it wanted to first “consolidate” responses to public concerns on various issues.

Speaking at a school in Siu Sai Wan celebrating 20 years since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Lam said a major focus was on the city’s youth to mark the handover anniversary.

“[The Hong Kong Palace Museum and an innovation and technology park to be developed jointly by Hong Kong and Shenzhen at the Lok Ma Chau border] were conceived and developed very much with young people in mind, because we want to give our young people diversified opportunities,” she said.

“That is, not all of you need to go into banking, financial services, and whatnot; you have a future in innovation and technology as well as cultural and creative industries.”

Lam also announced two internship programmes on nature and heritage conservation for those in the 18-29 age group, which would give them the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of conserving giant pandas in Sichuan and artefacts in the Beijing’s Palace Museum.

During her speech addressing Form Six students at the Chinese Foundation Secondary School, Lam also stressed on the importance of respecting and loving the nation.

“By definition, an adolescent could be a bit wild in thinking and irresponsible in behaviour, but once you reach adulthood and go into university and go into work, I hope you will remember what this school has taught you, about civic responsibility and the respect and love for the nation,” she said.

On December 23, Lam announced that the museum, to be solely funded by the Jockey Club, would be built at the arts hub, housing a collection loaned from its original Beijing counterpart.

Adding to the controversy, the authority admitted that it had engaged architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee to design the museum months before Lam revealed the project plan to board members in late November.

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority issued a press statement at 1.37pm Monday saying the launch, which was originally to be held at City Gallery at 2.30pm, would be deferred to this afternoon following a scheduled board meeting.

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

“Despite the detailed explanation, the authority is aware of diverse remarks and comments on the project and concerns expressed by the community about the process over the weekend,” the statement said.

“The authority takes the view that these public concerns, if not addressed as soon as possible, would divert attention from the public consultation.”

Board member Kan Tai-keung said he was notified of the change “unexpectedly”, but the deferral might be needed given the “critical” nature of the consultation.

Kan said he had warned Lam and other members of the expected criticisms over the lack of consultation before the board voted unanimously for it at a November 28 meeting.

Another board member, Chris Ip Ngo-tung, said it was appropriate to postpone the consultation if it allowed members to fully discuss the matter.