Hong Kong’s West Kowloon arts development has submitted a plan designed to boost its finances to the government, after announcing funding was expected to run out within two years.

New Beijing (2001) by Wang Xingwei m+ m plus
New Beijing (2001) by Wang Xingwei at M+. The painting has been removed from the wall in 2022. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) received HK$21.6 billion from the government in 2008 to manage the West Kowloon Cultural District, which includes visual arts museum M+, Hong Kong’s offshoot of Beijing’s Palace Museum, and Chinese opera performance space the Xiqu Centre.

That money is is expected to run out in March 2025, after which it will not be able to put on new exhibitions and events, chairman of the WKCDA board Henry Tang told reporters on Thursday after attending a ceremony at the Xiqu Centre.

The former chief secretary also announced that the authority had submitted a plan to the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau in an attempt to shore up its finances.

Henry Tang Ying-yen
Henry Tang. File photo: Supplied.

The plan proposed to “make good use of land resources” in the arts hub, Tang said, adding that he could not disclose further details as the government had not yet approved the plan.

“The ball is now in the court of the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau,” Tang told the media in Cantonese.

Citing sources, local media reported that WKCDA had submitted the plan to the bureau several months ago, proposing to allow the sale of residential property rights in future tenders for new zones and to issue bonds.

Currently, residential units in the West Kowloon district cannot be sold and are only available for rent.

M+ Museum.
M+ Museum. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau said in a Chinese-language emailed response that the government was closely following the financial situation of the West Kowloon Cultural District, and required the WKCDA to propose an appropriate and feasible plan to improve financing. The bureau would discuss plans with the authority, including asking for more detailed documents to be submitted.

HKFP has reached out to the WKCDA for comment.

Edward Lau, a lawmaker from the pro-Beijing party Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao that allowing the sale of residential units would help to secure WKCDA finances, but he worried that sale prices may not be very good as the real estate market was relatively weak.

According to a report submitted to the Legislative Council in April 2021, the WKCDA had just HK$7.9 billion remaining from the funding it received from the government.

Tang said on Thursday that the WKCDA had worked hard to tighten its expenditures in recent years, delaying the depletion of its finances from 2023 until March 2025. Arts and culture facilities across the world were hard to run without the long-term support of governments, Tang added.

Palace Museum
Hong Kong’s Palace Museum. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The chairman said the arts hub had previously sought further funding from the government, but had decided to rely on itself to avoid competing for public resources, as the authorities had spent heavily combatting the coronavirus in the past three years.

Paul Chan, the city’s finance chief, announced in January that the government had spent over HK$600 billion for “anti-epidemic efforts and relief measures” in the past three years.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She previously worked at Initium Media as chief editor for Hong Kong news and was a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation serving the underprivileged. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Irene is the recipient of two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and three honourable mentions for her investigative, feature and video reporting. She also received a Human Rights Press Award for multimedia reporting and an honourable mention for feature writing.