Bowing to public pressure, the government will launch a public consultation next week on the planned Hong Kong Palace Museum, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
This comes after Chief Secretary Carrie Lam announced in late December that the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with Beijing’s Palace Museum to build the project in the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD).
Lam chairs the board of the WKCD Administration.
Documents unsealed by the government on Thursday showed discussions over the project began in late 2015 and had been kept secret until October when the WKCDA board was informed about it.
The government said the MOU was a prerequisite for the project and therefore no public consultation was needed.
Critics lashed at the government for circumventing the WKCDA Ordinance that requires public consultation before any project can be launched.
According to the documents, the deal had to be kept secret because the project could not go ahead without Beijing’s approval to lend the Palace Museum’s collections.
The exhibits are national treasures and a matter of state secret, the documents said.
“We have taken a judgment call that the development of the museum would be welcomed by Hong Kong people and would be good for the city’s culture and tourism industries,” the documents said.
The government said the WKCDA had decided to forgo a plan to build a large performance venue in the district.
The space is suitable for other purposes, such as the proposed Hong Kong Palace Museum.
The public consultation will start on Jan. 9 and will last for six weeks.
Lawmaker Tanya Chan said the consultation is meaningless because it will only ask the public about what they think of the proposed design, operations and future exhibitions and educational activities.
She said the project is a “done deal”, adding the consultation should instead ask people whether such a project is necessary.
Lam is set to attend a meeting of Legco’s House Committee on Friday to explain the project.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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