The launch of the six-week public consultation period for the Hong Kong Palace Museum project has been postponed until Tuesday, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority has announced.
It said that, at a special meeting of the Legislative Council House Committee last Friday, the authority’s chairman “gave a full account of the process and considerations” leading to the controversial project. “Despite the detailed explanation, the authority is aware of diverse remarks and comments on the project and concerns expressed by the community about the process over the weekend.”
“The authority takes the view that these public concerns, if not addressed as soon as possible, would divert attention from the public consultation,” it said in a press release on Monday. The launch will take place after the scheduled board meeting on Tuesday, instead, and a press conference will be held to give official responses to the issues raised.
The announcement came amid heated debate over the controversial plan to construct a HK$3.5 billion Hong Kong Palace Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who is expected to enter the chief executive race, signed a cooperation agreement with Beijing’s Palace Museum last month.
No public consultation had been held before Chief Secretary Carrie Lam announced the plan, and a group of activists have submitted an application for a judicial review alleging a potential legal issue. The consultation that commences on Tuesday will only relate to the design and operation of the facility.
Lam did not respond to reporter’s questions on why the public consultation was deferred when attending an event on Monday, RTHK reported.
Public urged to partake
Ada Wong Ying-kay, a member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority Consultation Panel, said that she hoped the consultation will be serious and urged the public to take part rather than to severely criticise the project.
“I know there are people who would be absolutely opposed to the Palace Museum project – but I don’t belong to that camp,” Wong said, following her appearance on an RTHK programme. “I’m not against the idea of building the museum at West Kowloon, but I believe that… we are cultural citizens and should take part in this.” This would include areas such as the operations of the museum, its future directions, and whether exhibitions are designed with the perspective of Hongkongers in mind.
Wong said she hoped everyone will actively take part in the consultation, as the achievements of West Kowloon were a result of consultation and public participation. “[T]here are still a lot of things we can discuss, especially given the details that have been revealed by the media recently. The government and the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority needs to give an explanation on these matters,” she said. She also said that she was concerned about the operations and the expenditure, and hoped there would be more input on such issues during the consultation.
Architect appointed without tender
On Saturday, investigative newswire FactWire revealed that an architect was appointed without tender to design the museum and was apparently working on the project in June, months before government officials formally presented the proposal to board members of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority. The authority admitted the incident later that evening.
However, according to FactWire, the Hong Kong Jockey Club only agreed to put in a HK$3.5 billion donation as funding for the project in October. The Chief Secretary did not respond to questions as to whether any expenses were incurred in employing the architect.
Meanwhile on Monday, protesters from the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China gathered at Hong Kong MTR station, where giant posters advertising TVB’s In Touch with Palace Museum have been put up, to voice opposition towards the government’s project. Over 30 protesters were flanked by around a dozen MTR staff members, who linked hands to form a human chain to surround the group.