立場新聞 Stand News

William Waung Response to HK Palace Museum Project Consultation

2017/3/10 — 15:31

編按:本文為退休法官王式英對西九擬建故宮文化博物館的意見書,中文撮要報道,詳按此

1. As a Hong Kong citizen with core interests  in good governance and the long-term well-being of Hong Kong people, and a background in law, records and museum, I am particularly moved to respond to this public consultation, given the secrecy surrounding the HK Palace Museum project (“HKPM Project”) about which, despite the appearance of Carrie Lam before LegCo and a news conference in January, much remains unknown and rightly there has been strong and largely negative reaction to the HKPM Project from the Hong Kong Community.

A. Necessity of a Branch Museum or Franchise Satellite

廣告

2. 20 years ago, Bilbao Guggenheim started a new world museum scene with the appearances of branch museums or franchise satellite museums. Names like Guggenheim, Hermitage and Louvre are associated with such overseas museums. There is much disagreement and often controversies on this concept of junior museum.  But one common element of these overseas senior partner museum help is that the junior partner is paying dearly for such senior museum help.

3. While nothing has been said (unless as yet undisclosed records show otherwise) about Hong Kong paying dearly to Beijing Palace Museum for the regular loan of objects, this aspect of HKPM is a matter of concern.  It all seems to be a matter of largesse and generosity by Beijing to Hong Kong.  Why is Beijing so generous and benevolent to Hong Kong.

廣告

B.   Political Objective of HKPM Project

4. I believe the answer is not too far to seek and it is called patriotism.  We have been seeing increasingly more and more complaint from Beijing and from even certain patriotic quarters in Hong Kong that Hong Kong and its people are not patriotic and show insufficient love for the motherland.  Therefore Chinese history education should be increased and emphasized. Foreign elements in Hong Kong culture should be reduced.  If Hong Kong has a larger and regular diet of Palace Museum history and objects, Hong Kong people will love China more and accept more readily the one country concept and less demanding in seeking the full implementation of the two systems promised in the Basic Law.

5. As I see it therefore, the basis of the HKPM Project is not so much cultural but political and it is not surprising that without fully realizing it, Hong Kong people reacted strongly against this subtle political indoctrination and rejected Carrie Lam unwelcome and suspicious gift of HK Palace Museum to the HK people.  It is for the same kind of reason that Hong Kong lawyers and the international community reject strongly the Beijing White Paper calling for Hong Kong Judges to be patriotic and against the recent call from Mainland Chinese law professors and lawyers, for Hong Kong Judiciary to reduce its foreign judges so that our HK Judiciary will consist of only Chinese judges who will be patriotic and therefore more vulnerable (they hope) to pressure from Beijing.

6. I consider this is a fundamental objection to the proposed HKPM Project. Hong Kong should reject the political patriotic diet served as cultural gift by Carrie Lam.

C.   No Necessity for HKPM

7. The Palace Museum in Beijing is strong on the decorative arts but not on the main categories of Chinese art, such as bronzes, painting, calligraphy, porcelain, jades etc. For the core traditional Chinese art, Taipei Palace Museum has the world’s top collection. .  For quality of the objects, the National Museum at Tian An Men Square commands a larger and better audience.

8. We know from past HK exhibitions with objects from Beijing Palace Museum that there is no necessity for a separate large HKPM in Hong Kong. Over the last 10 years or so, we have seen both in Hong Kong and in Macau, regular number of special exhibitions on various themes with objects from the Beijing Palace Museum. Past exhibitions from Beijing Palace Museum have various degrees of success in Hong Kong and Macau but certainly no huge crowd pullers. As was said somewhere in a recent article, even exhibitions on buses command in Hong Kong a higher audience number than exhibitions from Beijing Palace Museum.  The reason for this is that Palace Museum in Beijing has a large audience figure because it is the Palace architecture and the history of the Palace in Beijing which is the main draw and not so much the Museum objects.

9. Having been to most of the Palace Museum exhibitions in Hong Kong, I can say that these exhibitions held in our various museums in Hong Kong and Macau would be more than sufficient for Hong Kong people’s limited appetite for Palace Museum exhibitions (one or two a year consisting of a limited number of objects with a theme).  There is no scope for a huge increase, of the proposed dimensions of the HKPM Project in West Kowloon.  It is a white elephant conceived by politicians in Hong Kong and Beijing.  Thank you, but we in Hong Kong we do not want it or need it.

10. If we in Hong Kong have only limited appetite for special exhibitions from Beijing Palace Museum, then we certainly do not have the need for a gigantic building for the proposed HKPM, and particularly not in WKCD.  WKCD has a long and tortured history but it is in a way, a sacred ground dedicated by LegCo (enshrined in the Ordinance) and HK people for the twin mission of Grand Theatre and modern art.  Carrie Lam without full public consultation, took away the Grand Theatre from WKCD and without any consultation, tried to impose on us the HKPM, in WKCD.  The HKPM if it needs to go anywhere in Hong Kong, can be built in any appropriate land controlled by the HK Government but not on the sacred ground of West Kowloon and against the purpose and intention of HK people, HK Legislature and contrary to the only Hong Kong Ordinance dedicated to the land uniquely created for special HK culture.      

D.  Lack of Business Plan and Effective Public Consultation

11. Everywhere in the world, a serious business can only be conceived and successfully pursued, if there is a good Business Plan behind it.  The necessity of a good Business Plan for a new Museum project is equally if not more mandatory (because museums by their nature operate with income not covering the expenditure). Hong Kong people with all the information given by Carrie Lam to LegCo and to the public on HKPM Project, we have not been given a Business Plan of this proposed museum in West Kowloon.  A new Museum has to be built according to plan and to be sustained after it is built according to plan and all these plans should be included in the Business Plan. It takes a long time to put together a Business Plan (let alone a good Business Plan) for such an ambitious museum which will cost $3.5 Billion to build and which will cost how many hundreds of millions a year to run. It is inconceivable and very surprising if the Jockey Club with its sophisticated business dominated Board of Stewards will ever agree to give this unprecedented huge amount of money for a project without a brilliant Business Plan.  Yet no Business Plan has been produced to LegCo and to the Hong Kong public.

12. In the absence of a viable Business Plan being able to be scrutinized by LegCo and the Hong Kong public, no required consultation under the Ordinance can take place.  It will not be just bad governance, but a huge flouting of the law by the top Government officials who seek to push forward this HKPM Project in the absence of a viable Business Plan.

E.  Role of Property Development in WKCD

13. By an announcement made in CE Policy Address on 18th January 2017, the Government informed Hong Kong that, without any public consultation, the Government would transfer to WKCDA the property development rights in WKCD.  Whether there should be property development in WKCD to gain large revenue is a matter of great public importance and especially to the public and to LegCo which is supposed to have a supervisory role over public finances and the long term well-being of the cultural development in WKCD.  The unilateral action of the Government, whatever its legality, certainly does not suggest good governance. If the WKCD project is over budget, then the correct approach is to seek further funding from LegCo, not to bypass it by transferring land rights instead of cash. The HK public can quite understandably feel aggrieved that the HK Government has no regard to the history and spirit of WKCD and seen to be to working closely with Beijing and their Hong Kong political supporters to bolster support for the HKPM Project.

14. The rationale of the Government transferring the development right in WKCD is so that a future revenue can be created by WKCDA to enable it to pay for the huge deficit arising out of running M+, HKPM and other cultural activities. But WKCDA is not a property developer, with no expertise and its role as property developer will be in conflict with its role as the statutory body created to promote long term cultural aim of Hong Kong. The fact that the cultural activities in WKCD will be running at huge deficits, running into billions of dollars and requiring such deficit to be financed does not necessitate or justify the Government action. What the Government ought not to do, without public consultation or without reference to LegCo, was to give away unilaterally one of the most valuable assets in WKCD.

15. The land development right in WKCD is one of the areas which a Business Plan on HKPM Project will have addressed, as the Business Plan will need to focus on the critical issue of how its operational deficits will be managed and financed.  The Hong Kong public and LegCo will have much to say on that subject.  They might well take the view that in respect of such property activities, there should be put in place statutory or otherwise oversight by the LegCo, the public and the media and that the proper exercise of bringing in the revenue to cover cultural operational deficit should come in by an outside special statutory body with professional developments on public land not necessarily within the area of WKCD or even by way of a statutory levy on public consumption (cultural or otherwise).              

F    Roles of the various players in the Business Plan

16. A proper Business Plan for a project of the scope and dimension of the proposed HKPM Project, would set out in a very large and substantial document, the roles to be played by various persons and organizations and whether there might be conflicts of interests.

17. A proper Business Plan would have included the role to be played by architect, designer at various stages of the HKPM Project.  A radical departure from this was the controversial role taken by architect Rocca Yim and his firm, being secretly awarded the important work on the HKPM Project without any tendering exercise.  LegCo, the media and the HK public deserve to know with reliable documents what led to the departure from the expected high level of governance and public scrutiny and how can the lack of a Business Plan be justified.

18. A good Business Plan would describe in great detail how the whole project is to be financed, including in particular the proposed museum building. One of the key players in that Business Plan would be the role of Jockey Club and persons closely connected to the Jockey Club. The fact that the Jockey Club gave an unprecedented sum of $3.5 Billion for the building cost of the proposed HKPM must call for scrutiny of the close relationship between the HK Government and the Jockey Club and possibly the persons at the top of each organization connected with such special funding. The close relationship for example between a former Chairman of the Jockey Club and former Covenor of Exco, Ronald Arculli becoming campaign manager of Carrie Lam’s CE Election campaign as well as the fact that two of the twelve Stewards of the Jockey Club are members of the Executive Council might well be a matter of possible scrutiny by LegCo.  LegCo might also wish to scrutinize what benefits have been given to the Jockey Club by the HK Government which might shed light on the Jockey Club in recent years taking on the large role of publicly supporting cultural development thereby relieving the Government of seeking public fund requirement from a difficult and inquiring LegCo (see chuhoidick/hk/2017/01/21/page/4/). LegCo might well even be interested in seeking information as to whether the unique privilege given to Jockey Club in return for its traditional support of charities such as hospitals, schools, but now somewhat changed in its nature, calls for a review of that  enormously lucrative gambling monopoly enjoyed for so long by the Jockey Club.  The spirit of the recently enacted Competition Ordinance argues for elimination of anti-competitive policies in our Government and anti-competitive legislation in our statute book.

19. The Business Plan is an enormously important document which is the foundation of the business of any new enterprise. The role taken by Carrie Lam, the recently departed Chairman of the WKCDA should be a central part of the Business Plan.  Such a Business Plan and Carrie Lam’s role in the HKPM Project and records connected with HKPM, should be matters of critical examination by LegCo, the media and the public. Carrie Lam by her own account is the founder and primary promotor of the HKPM Project. She publicly prides herself on the secrecy and success of HKPM Project as a supreme success. I would regard its lack of Business Plan, its loudly touted secrecy and lack of records as its badge of failure.  In the museum world, it might be regarded as folly of the highest order.

G. Long term Cultural Policy with White Paper

20. The main objection to the HKPM Project is that what had been done was against the whole letter and spirit of West Kowloon Cultural District and that the HK public had been given a fait accompli with a cosmetic and fake consultation.  The HKPM Project should be abandoned.  If it is to be pursued and the new Government Administration has the stomach to go through such political storm, then it must be redone, from the start, with a proper full consultation, with a Business Plan and only in the context of a long term Hong Kong cultural policy which includes West Kowloon and very critically the role to be played by charitable organizations including the Jockey Club.

21. Finally it seems to me the lessons Hong Kong should learn from the controversy of this HKPM Project is that it is essential we have a long term cultural policy which provides, on a permanent basis, the financial means to support such a long term cultural policy and with governance safe guards including requirement for good records to ensure no future secret deal can be thrusted upon Hong Kong.   Culture is a very expensive business and income from culture is small where expenditure is very large, requiring serious control, if we do not wish to be confronted with troubling financial crisis, as it has recently hit even the most well-endowed museum such as the New York Metropolitan Museum with the resignation of its world renown Museum Director.

22. But how to finance such cultural deficit, must be a matter for the Hong Kong public and their representatives in LegCo.  The proper role of the Government performing according to high standards of governance (with proper records management) will require it to first consult widely the public and then publish a White Paper on the possible way forward on Hong Kong long term cultural policy.

23. A White Book on a long term cultural policy will be a way forward which will examine what is good for Hong Kong (not China), what is our long term cultural objective and the means to reach such objective.  The possible creation of an Art Fund or a reconstituted Arts Development Council or such bodies should be part of the large consultation exercise and discussion in the White Paper.

H. Conclusion

24. The HKPM Project is a political project and not a normal cultural project.  Without a proper Business Plan, the HKPM Project is simply a proposed business without solid foundation. It is even more crucially, bad governance.  The HKPM Project cannot be allowed to continue.  Immediate notice should be given under the MOU signed with Beijing Palace Museum to terminate the HKPM Project.  

 

William Waung Sik Ying

Dated 6th March 2017

Email: waun[email protected]

發表意見