Arts Development Council election system under review

Under the proposals, rules for individual artists would be eased and tougher limits placed on arts groups in voting for members

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 4:23am

Individual artists excluded from voting for members of the Arts Development Council may gain the right to vote under changes proposed by the arts funding body.

The changes, in a paper subject to public consultation until December 12, would allow arts competition winners and finalists, graduates of local arts degree programmes and tenants of creative spaces to register as voters. This would give them the right to nominate and vote for council members representing 10 art forms in next year's election. Instructors of arts subjects and activities at all levels would also be included.

Some members of the arts community welcomed the review, but are sceptical about the impact of the proposed changes.

Stricter criteria are suggested for arts organisations wishing to register as voters after criticism that the present rules covering them are too loose.

Arts organisations wishing to register as a voter would have to be those focusing primarily on arts administration, arts criticism, arts education, xiqu, dance, drama, film and media arts, literary arts, music and visual arts.

The Arts Development Council gets annual funding of HK$87 million from the Home Affairs Bureau, out of government expenditure on arts and culture, which this year totals HK$3.09 billion. It is governed by a 27-member council, 10 of whom are elected every three years.

This is the first time that the council has conducted a consultation on the election process.

Under the existing rules for individuals, registration is restricted to decision-makers and award winners of the council, recipients of grants from it and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, collaborators with, and advisers for, the department and arts teachers in specific areas.

These rules were criticised as too stringent during the review, the council said.

Under the proposed rules, arts workers who have been commissioned by the government or arts and cultural affairs statutory bodies would also be accommodated, as would tenants of the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, Cattle Depot Artist Village and the Hong Kong Arts Centres.

Artist Anthony Leung Po-shan was positive about the review, as some of the suggestions would help define the meaning of arts workers, which she said the authorities had failed to do.

Leung doubts the extent to which easing the rules would change the council, as elected members make up only a third of the council. The rest are appointed by the government.

Artist and critic Wen Yau believes the proposed changes will include more arts practitioners in the election.

However, Wen Yau, already a registered voter, pointed out that some freelance arts workers such as critics, writers and indie musicians, as well as self-taught artists and graduates from overseas institutions might be left out of the voting.

"[What] about the commercial sector such as gallerists who also actively promote Hong Kong art? Does this imply only subsidised individuals will be counted as stakeholders?"

The lawmaker for the arts sector, Ma Fung-kwok, a former chairman of the council, said that while he welcomed the consultation, the final outcome of the changes would depend on the government's attitude, as recommendations made by the council might not be fully acted on by the Home Affairs Bureau.