The West Kowloon Cultural District Administration had hired architect Rocco Yim to design the Hong Kong Palace Museum in June last year, or five months before its board approved the project in November, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The WKCDA admitted in a press statement that it engaged the services of Yim in June, telling him to be ready with all the specifications and information on the design of the museum before the meeting in November when he would be made the project’s consultant.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who chairs the WKCDA, has yet to respond to the latest revelations.
According to FactWire News, Yim, after getting the government contract in June, handed in his report in July or August.
Throughout the period, the government had used the code name “Project P” to keep the discussions secret, Factwire said.
Yim’s architectural firm had also formed a special task force to liaise with the government on the project confidentially, the report said.
Attending a Legislative Council meeting on the issue last Friday, Lam said Yim’s appointment was a “special occasion”.
But according to the WKCDA, Lam had consulted vice-chairperson Ronald Arculli and former WKCD curator Victor Lo Chung-wing about the Palace Museum in the first half of last year.
Lam also told lawmakers that the WKCDA board’s decision to shelve the “mega performance venue” (MPV) came before there was any discussion of the Palace Museum.
However, the WKCDA revealed that it scrapped the MPV plans in September 2016, months after Yim’s appointment.
Ip Ngo-tung, a WKCDA member, said the administration had long decided to remove the MPV from the plans for the district because of financial reasons, adding that it would be “unfair” to discuss it and the Palace Museum plans together as those are separate issues and not related to each other.
Ip also said there was nothing wrong about Yim’s appointment because plans had to be prepared before they were presented to the board for approval.
At Legco, Lam also said the scrapping of the MPV plan had nothing to do with the building of the Palace Museum.
But Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan, who is vice-chairperson of the Legco team monitoring the cultural district, accused Lam of lying.
Chan also said the approval of the Palace Museum blatantly ignored the tradition of public consultation in government projects.
Chief executive hopeful Regina Ip has refused to comment on the Palace Museum controversy, but said she would be careful about formulating policies and would heed the people’s voice.
Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who is also running for the top job, said procedures were not followed in the approval of the project, and questioned whether “executive power can just go through this loophole”.
He also slammed the government’s move to launch an advertising campaign for the Palace Museum at a time when the plan is being hounded by controversy.
According to hk01.com, one such advertisement, a mega billboard at the MTR Central Station, was found vandalized with the mark of a bloody hand on Saturday.
MTR staff immediately cleaned up the billboard and reported the incident to the police, the report said.
In another incident, about 10 stickers of a tank with red stars were found on the handrail belts of conveyors at the station, Headline Daily reported.
Photos of the stickers went viral as netizens said they recalled images of the bloody crackdown on student protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
(Tiananmen Square is right in front of the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City in Beijing.)
The MTR management reminded the public that it is against the law to distribute or put up flyers, stickers and other unauthorized materials within the premises of the stations. Violators can face up to three months in jail if convicted.
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