West Kowloon Cultural District

Chief Executive CY Leung urges city to ‘move on and build’ contentious Hong Kong Palace Museum

Public engagement to kick off today at 5pm with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to answer questions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 11:36am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 1:46pm

Following a six-week of public consultation process, the city “must move on and build” the HK$3.5 billion Hong Kong Palace Museum, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Tuesday.

Speaking before the Executive Council’s weekly meeting, Leung said he hoped the museum plan could be “implemented” soon.

His comments came amid heightened controversy surrounding the museum for the West Kowloon Cultural District. Since being announced on December 23, the project has attracted criticism for the government’s lack of consultation and transparency during the decision-making process, and for the engagement of architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee for design-related works behind closed doors.

“I know people have different opinions on venues and activities in West Kowloon, so we will follow the procedure, and there are six weeks of public consultation,” Leung said.

“After we have finished the procedure, we must not leave things undecided. We must move forward and add this new, good venue for cultural activities and the Hong Kong people’s cultural life.

“I think that many other big cities in the world would welcome the arrangement if they were offered such a deal: that the city provides the land, a charity provides the money and Beijing’s Palace Museum lends its exhibits.”

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A six-week public engagement exercise was abruptly postponed on Monday and will be relaunched at a ceremony at 5pm today. Chief Secretary and potential chief executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and architect Yim are both expected to respond to queries concerning the planned museum. The WKCD’s vice-chairman Ronald Arculli will not be attending the event.

Speaking on a local radio programme on Tuesday, WKCD board member Kan Tai-keung agreed the project should begin as soon as possible.

If the consultation was carried out earlier, it may not have happened
Kan Tai-keung

Kan, a former director of the Cheung Kong Art and Design school at Shantou University, insisted architect Yim was the right person for the job as he was experienced and understood the planning of the WKCD.

Asked about the government’s handling of the project, Kan did not rule out the possibility of a better strategy.

“But I have difficulty seeing another way that could have been better for the project. If the consultation was carried out earlier, it may not have happened,” he said.

Kan also feared the controversy stirred up by the project would inevitably impact Chief Secretary Lam’s bid for chief executive.

“The responsibility and difficulty that she was willing to take on was extremely high,” Kan said.

“There was also a risk for her personally… this isn’t something that would score you more points.

“If [Lam] wasn’t a political actor who thought things through carefully, why would she do it? That’s why I empathise and am quite worried. This will have quite an impact on her,” he said.

Lam has been widely tipped to resign from her government post on Thursday to officially launch her chief executive candidacy prior to the election in March.

At Tuesday’s press briefing, Leung dismissed suggestions that Lam’s expected departure meant she was not concentrated on her job.

Public participation on Hong Kong Palace Museum needed, but undisclosed details may overshadow process, advocate warns

“Secretary [Carrie] Lam Cheng has been busy with her responsibilities every day … I have been meeting her every day to push forward various works of the government,” the Chief Executive said.

On December 12, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah tendered his resignation to Beijing for approval. But with no word yet on whether it has been granted, Tsang’s expected bid for the top job has been left in limbo.

“The departure of two ministers would indeed affect the government’s work,” Leung said.

“But if the secretary or anyone else is interested in the post of chief executive and serving Hong Kong in the new administration, he or she should not be stopped from running.”

The comments marked a change of attitude from the city’s leader who, before Tsang handed in his resignation, said officials “should focus” on their work and stopped short of saying ministers “should not be stopped from running”.

Separately, WKCD’s vice-chairman Arculli, a member of Lam’s campaign team for Hong Kong’s top job, was on Monday revealed to have set up a company in October – soon after Chief Executive Leung announced he would not seek re-election – and appointed another of the Chief Secretary’s key supporters, Laurence Li Lu-jen, as its director.

Arculli and Li could not be reached for comment on whether the company was related to Lam’s expected election bid.