A conspicuous lack of local classical stars in the new concert season of the city's flagship orchestra has sparked debate over the mandate an annual government subsidy of HK$71 million aims to achieve. In the 2015-16 season of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, announced last week, only one Hong Kong classical artist made it to the league of conductors and soloists from mainland China and the United States. This will be the lowest number of local classical talents, including commissioning composers, to appear in a season since Dutchman Jaap van Zweden became music director in 2012. However, Y.S. Liu, the orchestra board's vice-chairman, insisted the government's call was for the Phil to become world-class rather than a local ensemble. "Hong Kong is a world city; the government expects us to have, first, a world-class standard and, second, a global vision, not Hong Kong or Asia. That is what dictates everything we do," Liu said, adding that promoting Hong Kong musicians was only one of the orchestra's mandates. "We have quite a number of top Chinese stars in the next season and I think we should not draw a line between Hong Kong or China artists," he added, referring to Oscar laureate Tan Dun who will open the season with his new work, and Du Wei, the season's composer-in-residence from Tianjin . Chan Wing-wah, a top local composer and a former board member, said: "All local groups, music, drama, dance and so on, have the obligation to build the culture of the place where they are based and where they receive funding from. In HK Phil's case, it is the HKSAR government and the audience and the taxpayers, not the audience overseas and not so much the tourists. "You can't be international by simply playing works of others. Then you'd have no identity." The lack of local artists became apparent in the choice of programmes for Hong Kong-born conductor Elim Chan and her American counterparts. Chan will make her debut with the London Symphony Orchestra this month as the first female assistant conductor designate since the group's founding in 1904. She is scheduled to conduct two Christmas concerts in Harry Wong's Christmas. Meanwhile, Karina Canellakis, van Zweden's assistant from the Dallas Symphony, and Courtney Lewis, assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, will have their own full, scheduled concerts. Van Zweden, 54, said he did not make all the decisions for the new season and it was the orchestra's board that approved the collective decisions. "When you work with a team, it is always giving and taking. If someone really wants a certain conductor or soloist, I am not going to veto it just because I am the boss," he said from Vienna. "Of course, in the end, the board is making the decision. We, as members of the orchestra, hope to inspire the board to what we would like, and I hope they are agreeing with us." Raff Wilson, the Phil's artistic planning chief, said the arrangement was in no way loaded against local artists. "After discussions, unfortunately we didn't have slots available that would work for her," said Wilson of Chan, who won the Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition last year. "It was a question of seeing her [at the Christmas concerts], or waiting another season. We chose to do the former and are delighted that she will appear in our 2015/16 season," he said. Chan, 28, speaking from St Petersburg on her Russian debut as a conductor, said she was available any time for the home orchestra. "I start with LSO officially in September but it lets me honour any gigs that come along my way," she said. "Anyway I will do my best this Christmas, which I hope will lead to something bigger next year." Van Zweden agreed. "I think she should absolutely come back in a big serious concert with us and not just a Christmas concert," he said.