West Kowloon Cultural District

Hong Kong arts hub to get HK$3.5 billion replica of Beijing’s Palace Museum

Construction to begin late next year with Jockey Club funding

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 11:12pm

In a cultural coup for Hong Kong, the city on Friday signed a HK$3.5 billion deal with Beijing to create a replica of the capital’s celebrated Palace Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District.

The project, funded by the Jockey Club, is a highlight of next year’s events to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule and the culmination of close collaboration following an agreement in 2012 between the city and the Palace Museum.

At the signing ceremony, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said construction of the new “Hong Kong Palace Museum” would begin next year, calling the original in the Forbidden City “one of the most influential museums in the world”.

“This is the best and biggest gift to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland,” he said.

This is the best and biggest gift to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland
CY Leung, Hong Kong chief executive

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has been overseeing the preparations for next year’s anniversary and chairs the board of the authority in charge of West Kowloon, said the support of the central government was essential.

“The future exhibits will be loaned to us by the Palace Museum on a long-term basis, which would have been impossible within the existing state policy on the export of artefacts,” she said.

According to a government source, the present policy limits the number of exhibits on loan to 120 items per tour for a maximum period of three months, but the future museum will feature over 1,000 items on display for up to three years at a time.

The source dismissed suggestions that the museum had anything to do with independence sentiments in Hong Kong, saying discussions on the project began last year.

A government press release added that “developing a museum with a clear focus on Chinese history, art and culture in Hong Kong is fully in line with the vision of developing Hong Kong into a cultural metropolis”.

The site of the future museum is slated for the cultural district’s western harbourfront and described as “highly complementary” to the core arts and cultural facilities now under construction, including M+, the project’s museum of modern art which is expected to open in 2019.

The newest museum will occupy around 10,000 square metres, and the construction floor area is estimated at 30,500 square metres. It will house two exhibition galleries offering space for the permanent display of relics provided by the Palace Museum on a long-term and regular basis. Other facilities include activity rooms, a 400-seat lecture theatre, souvenir shops and restaurants.

Lam dismissed suggestions that the Jockey Club donation was meant to get around funding approval from lawmakers, insisting there was no need for prior public consultation.

Commenting on the lack of consultation, she said: “I would have thought that many Hong Kong people should be very happy about this project.”