The Palace Museum project has become something of a political game.
On Tuesday, a group of of antique collectors formed a group in support of the project, saying Hong Kong people should thank the central authorities for the “gift” instead of criticizing the initiative.
Eddy Li, the group’s honorary secretary, said Hong Kong stands to benefit from the project and decried the politicisation of the plan.
Li, an antique collector, said the West Kowloon Cultural District is the perfect location for the museum as the arts hub is supposed to be a melting pot of artistic expressions.
“Let people know about Chinese history. Let them see our collection which we’re proud of,” he said.
Li and other Beijing loyalists are missing the point.
In fact, Hong Kong people might be in favor of such a project but they object to the way it was all wrapped up behind the scenes.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club will foot the bill, which means the project can bypass the Legislative Council for funding, but it does not mean Hong Kong people should have no say in it.
If standard procedure had been followed, there would have been a public consultation and our lawmakers would have been briefed.
But this is exactly the kind of unilateral decisions that have caused deep divisions in society.
By making the announcement without consultation, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, made a bad situation worse.
Now proponents of the project are planning a signature campaign to garner support for the plan. They are eager to use the pro-Beijing media to pitch their ideas to the public.
Meanwhile, the public is tired of this sort of mobilization which has done nothing but exacerbate social conflict.
Lam’s excuse for bypassing normal procedure is that the project is covered by confidentiality due to the nature of the collections, which she said is a state secret.
She is determined to push the project at the expense of transparency and fairness to Hong Kong people.
Of course, it does not hurt to earn some political points from Beijing.
It’s no secret that Lam is interested in running for chief executive, having reconsidered her decision to retire at the end of her term after Leung Chun-ying announced he would not be seeking reelection.
Even now that she has not yet declared her candidacy, she is already being watched closely by the election committee members who will choose Hong Kong’s next leader in March.
She will need to please these people and not worry about those who don’t have a vote in the process — the ordinary taxpayer.
Before the Palace Museum saga, Lam had been viewed as a reasonable choice for Hong Kong’s top job because of her ample experience in government and a generally positive image.
But her missteps in the museum project proved that she is cut from the same cloth as Leung Chun-ying, a blind loyalist to Beijing who could set aside proper policymaking for political expediency.
The Palace Museum project is not simply a cultural issue between Hong Kong and China but it’s a political game that Beijing can leverage on.
It can use culture to strengthen its intellectual influence on Hong Hong as well as tighten its political grip at the same time.
Against such backdrop, many Hong Kong people are suspicious of Lam’s motives. Some are accusing her of betraying her professionalism as a public servant.
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