For the first time in nine years, the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) Authority will have a chairman who is not a government official.
This comes as former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen was appointed to oversee the troubled arts and cultural hub in what is being hailed as a “new stage of development”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced Tang’s appointment effective Oct. 1.
Lam said the choice of a non-government official for the job was a matter of timing to provide the project with fresh insights.
Tang was the only non-official candidate for the position he had held earlier as financial secretary under Donald Tsang.
“If Tang refused to take the job, I don’t see how the plan can work,” she said. Lam said it is likely that the post will be succeeded by non-official personalities in the future.
Asked about the progress of the WKCD project, Lam said most of the planning is done and what remains is execution which Tang would excel in.
According to reports, the performing venues are close to completion and the M+ museum’s infrastructure is almost finished.
However, other projects within the park are still in the planning stages and the construction date has yet to be announced.
Tang said he is grateful for the appointment. He comes at a time when the project has progressed from the planning to the operation phase.
Many challenges await Tang, including the development of the 360,000-square-foot hotel/office/residential (HOR) project and the controversial Palace Museum.
Lawmaker Tanya Chan raised concern that the WKCD would become commercialized under Tang’s leadership due to his business background.
She also said it is too early to hand a project of this scale to a non-official person, especially when additional funding is being sought, on top of the original HK$21.6 billion budget, and that the development right of the HOR is now given to the WKCDA for free.
“There are worries that the project would be completely cut off from the government and we will have no say and no channels to monitor the situation,” Chan said.
Apple Daily reported high turnover at the top of the WKCD board. Executive director Angus Cheng Siu-chuen resigned after just seven days in 2009. Chief executive Tse Cheuk-fei left in 2011 and his successor Michael Lynch in 2015. Both failed to see out their contracts.
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