West Kowloon Cultural District
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
A digital rendering of the Tea House Theatre at the Xiqu Centre, the West Kowloon Cultural District’s Chinese opera venue. Photo: Handout UNStudio/AD+RG and West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

How the West Kowloon arts hub can help Hong Kong win back its edge over Shenzhen and Shanghai

Ken Chu says the West Kowloon Cultural District and the local Palace Museum it will house can burnish Hong Kong’s credentials as Asia’s World City, by pushing creative excellence and a modern approach to tradition

We always pride ourselves on our strengths in financial services, trade, communications and international business, but seem to forget that other key element which underscores most world-class cities, which is liveability, and art and culture play a significant role in this. Most cities at the top of the global liveability chart, such as New York, London, Vancouver and Berlin, have a common feature: their rich cultural heritage and a vibrant arts scene.
Unfortunately, Hong Kong is under threat. Shanghai has been forging ahead in finance. Shenzhen has also thundered forward in the past decade in the IT sector, and is now pushing hard to become a creative and cultural capital. If we want to maintain our position as Asia’s World City, we have to ride on the West Kowloon hub to further boost our art and culture sector.

West Kowloon arts hub can be the global champion of Cantonese opera

We have fallen behind Shenzhen in innovation and technology, but we can close the gap by excelling in arts and culture, given our rich cultural heritage and talent, and creative youth. This will help us to regain our competitive position as the “cultural gateway” in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.
To enhance our position as an arts hub and foster international exchange, the Hong Kong Palace Museum at West Kowloon can be a strong platform. It will exhibit many of China’s most precious historic artefacts, and tourists and connoisseurs will not have to travel to Beijing to view these treasures.

President Xi Jinping witnesses seal of approval for the Hong Kong Palace Museum

The cultural district should do more to encourage our young talent to learn from the efforts of the Palace Museum in Beijing to rejuvenate its public image. For instance, the Beijing museum has partnered with Alibaba – owner of the South China Morning Post – to put interesting replica merchandise of exhibits on the shopping portal Taobao. I came across a Palace Museum Year 2018 calendar incorporating extracts of collections of Chinese calligraphy from the Song and Ming dynasties, which are exhibited at the museum. This is a great example of giving a modern touch to ancient artworks, and I am sure the Hong Kong Palace Museum would employ a similar approach to modernise and reach out to the public, especially millennials.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor with former chief secretary Henry Tang, after naming him as the new chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, at the government headquarters in Tamar on September 18. Photo: David Wong

Forbidden City? Not if head of China’s top museum has any say

I am also confident that, under new chairman Henry Tang Ying-yen, who has a flair for commerce, the cultural district will tap the creativity of our talented millennials, not just to rejuvenate the Hong Kong Palace Museum but the entire upcoming hub.

Dr Ken Chu is group chairman and CEO of the Mission Hills Group and a National Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Arts hub will make city shine