City leader’s top adviser to chair Hong Kong Palace Museum board
‘Strange’ appointment of Bernard Chan sparks questions governors’ independence from administration
A top adviser to Hong Kong’s leader has been appointed to lead the board of the city’s controversial Palace Museum, the government announced on Friday, sparking concerns over the governors’ independence.
Bernard Chan, convenor of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s Executive Council, will chair the museum’s 14-member board.
Other members include well-known historian Professor Joseph Ting Sun-pao, former chief curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History, and renowned designer and painter Kan Tai-keung.
The board will be in charge of “formulating the vision and mission, as well as strategies, policies and guidelines in relation to curatorial matters, professional standards and operation” of the museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District, according to the government’s announcement.
Expected to be completed in 2022, the museum will feature relics from China’s imperial past, borrowed from Beijing’s renowned Palace Museum.
The government green-lit the HK$3.5 billion museum in May last year, despite widespread concerns over the project’s legitimacy. When the plan to build the museum on the 10,000 square metres of harbourfront land – previously reserved for a performance venue – was suddenly announced in December 2016, critics decried the lack of public consultation.
A subsequent consultation report found “strong support” for the plan and paved the way for the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority to endorse it. But opponents have said the consultation distorted views collected through face-to-face interviews with members of the public.
Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan questioned whether Bernard Chan knew enough about Chinese history and culture to lead the board.
“I think his appointment is quite strange,” she said.
She said she recognised the cultural background of some members such as Ting and Kan, but worried that the board might not be independent, given the pro-establishment background of members like Bernard Chan and Chris Ip Ngo-tung, a member of pro-Beijing party the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
“[Building the museum] is an order from Beijing,” she said. “Now that it has to happen, we can only hope the board can get better exhibits to Hong Kong.”
Ip said the board was expected to meet regularly to discuss museum matters but he had not received any government papers or notices about upcoming meetings.
He said he believed the make-up of the board was representative because it included members from the cultural, district and social sectors.
Other board members include Florence Hui Hiu-fai, former Hong Kong home affairs undersecretary, the architect, ink painter and cultural district board member Raymond Fung Wing-kee and Chinese University Art Museum director Professor Peter Lam Yip-keung.