Date
23 July 2018
Carrie Lam has faced questions over her sudden announcement of plans to build a Hong Kong version of Beijing's famed Palace Museum. Photo: HKEJ
Carrie Lam has faced questions over her sudden announcement of plans to build a Hong Kong version of Beijing's famed Palace Museum. Photo: HKEJ

Forbidden City Museum: A political mission

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor suddenly announced on December 23 that a new museum will be built in Hong Kong, in collaboration with the Palace Museum in Beijing, to showcase China’s imperial relics.

The new museum, planned on a site in the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), would probably have been welcomed by the public if Lam had followed due procedures and engaged in thorough consultations before announcing the initiative.

Unfortunately, the top official kept both the Legislative Council and the general public in the dark about the project all along and did not follow standard consultation procedures. That has left her open to criticism that she overstepped her power as the chairperson of the WKCD Authority and bypassed the legislature on the extravagant project.

Some pro-democracy lawmakers suspect that the reason why Lam was pressing ahead with the project with utmost secrecy was because she wanted to please Beijing and boost her prospects of joining the race for Hong Kong’s top job.

In the meantime, the project’s lack of transparency and Lam’s failure to consult Legco and the public might make the proposed museum highly vulnerable to legal challenge. If that happens, the museum may face incalculable delays.

While many are still puzzled by the unusual way the government handled the project, I believe the year of completion of the proposed museum might give us some clues about why Lam is going to extreme lengths to minimize potential public opposition to the project.

According to the administration, the Forbidden City Museum is scheduled to open in 2022, the year that marks the silver jubilee of the return of Hong Kong to the mainland. It is also the year of the scheduled 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, an event during which the country is likely to witness the birth of its 6th generation leadership.

As the year 2022 is so crucial, Beijing has every reason to erect a monument in Hong Kong, such as a museum, to celebrate the special occasion and demonstrate to the world the prosperity and unity of Hong Kong under “One Country Two Systems”.

Given this, Lam, who is put in charge of the crucial project, is determined to go to any length to make sure the museum won’t be stalled or delayed by opposition within Legco and from among the public.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 3

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RC

HKEJ contributor

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