A group of activists has said they are lodging a judicial review against the new Hong Kong Palace Museum in West Kowloon, after the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam failed to respond to a petition started by them demanding a public consultation for the project.

Cary Lo Chun-yu, co-convener of JR Team, said the petition was signed by 14 civil groups and 3,560 individuals. It was sent to Lam – also the chair of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority – through fax and registered mail last week. However, no response was received as of Thursday.

Lo, a master of law student at the University of Hong Kong, said the group decided to lodge a judicial review and submit the application at 2pm Thursday.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. File Photo: GovHK.

The challenge came a day before Lam was scheduled to answer lawmakers’ questions over the project at the Legislative Council on Friday.

They accuse the government of failing to conduct a public consultation, alleging that it violated Section 19 of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority Ordinance. The group also accused the government of violating normal engineering procedures in that the project did not conduct a request for tender exercise, and an architect was directly appointed.

Section 19 of the Ordinance reads: “…  the Authority shall, in relation to matters concerning the development or operation of arts and cultural facilities, related facilities, ancillary facilities and any other matters as the Authority considers fit, consult the public at such time and in such manner as it considers appropriate.”

Careful timing

Lo told HKFP that they chose to apply for the review on Thursday because the court would not have enough time to process the case in under than a day. Thus, Lam would be unable to say on Friday morning that a court case is pending and refuse to answer questions.

“If the public found Lam’s answers to be acceptable, that a public consultation will be conducted, then we will retract our application – this is the advantage of our legal system,” Lo said.

Carrie Lam
File Photo: GovHK.

The announcement of the Hong Kong Palace Museum was a surprise to many as there was little news of the proposal before Lam signed the agreement in Beijing at the end of last month.

The Hong Kong Palace Museum will display antiques from the Forbidden City on a long-term basis, as well as relics related to the history and life at the palace. It will cover a 10,000 square metre area next to the waterfront, and will feature a 30,000 square metre total gross floor area.

A number of groups have formed the Alliance in Support of Hong Kong Palace Museum to demonstrate their support towards the project.

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On Wednesday, the Alliance’s convener William Chak Kin-man said that the lack of consultation by the government was in order to give a pleasant surprise to the Hong Kong people.

Construction is set to begin in late 2017, and is expected to be completed by 2022.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department has also announced a new television programme at a cost of HK$3.8 million about the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.