Culture chief blames money worries and other difficulties for two-month hiatus on Philharmonic board The arts and culture chief has defended the government appointment system amid criticism that it left the city's flagship orchestra in a leadership vacuum for more than two months. Responsibility for the failure to appoint the Hong Kong Philharmonic's general committee for more than two months lay not with the government, but unpredictable difficulties, Secretary of Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping said yesterday. 'The biggest difficulty was money because we wanted to invite those who would bring in fresh cash to sit on the orchestra's board. But that wasn't easy,' said Dr Ho, a violinist by interest and ophthalmologist by profession. 'We have considered many candidates over and over. But I take this as a way to show we senior government officials take culture and arts very seriously. 'A large amount of public money [$60 million a year] is involved in running [the orchestra] and the government is held responsible at the end of the day.' The three new board members are Pansy Ho Chiu-king and Tai Tak-fung, both senior corporate executives, and Rafael Hui Si-yan, a retired senior finance official. Another contributing factor to the appointment delay was the admission to hospital of Hu Fa-kuang, board chairman for the past two years, on the eve of the renewal of the office term last October. The trio replace Mr Hu, Darwin Chen Tat-man and Daniel Ng Yat-chiu. 'It really gave us a headache because Mr Hu had played a vital role in fund-raising through his business network and he is a veteran official with the [orchestra],' Dr Ho said. Deliberations on new artistic director Edo de Waart's grand plan, including a salary increase for all 89 players, would go to the general committee. The secretary remained confident over the long-term development of the orchestral arts, despite poor attendance figures - one orchestra source said the costly production of Salome had sold only 600 tickets for three performances. 'My ideal scenario is that our orchestra will become the best in East Asia, a flagship orchestra. 'We can also have many other orchestras, be it Hong Kong Pops or Hong Kong Festival orchestras and chamber groups.' He denied claims his interest in the orchestra was politically motivated, especially in view of the increase in new performing venues in Beijing and Shanghai. But he admitted he had enjoyed a privileged position in mainland ophthalmological circles, serving as a medical adviser at the top PLA 301 hospital in Beijing since 1989.