World

Hong Kong Chief Secretary defends museum project

HONG KONG: The No. 2 official has defended Hong Kong's HK$3.5 billion (S$654 million) deal to build its own version of Beijing's celebrated Palace Museum amid criticism that the project was signed without first consulting the public.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who is widely expected to run for the chief executive election in March, signed an agreement on Friday with the Chinese authorities to set up the Hong Kong Palace Museum as the city gears up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its return to China next year.

The museum, to be built on a 10,000 sq m site in West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) by 2022, will showcase the treasures of imperial China, the city's government said in a release posted on its website.

But critics have questioned the lack of public consultation for the project, which will be fully funded by the Jockey Club and will not require the Legislative Council's approval, South China Morning Post reported yesterday.

Mrs Lam, who is also the WKCD authority's board chairman, said it would be "embarrassing" if a public consultation threw up opposition to the museum, the newspaper reported.

"It is very difficult to conduct a public consultation because it involves the central government and the related ministries," Mrs Lam was quoted as saying.

"You can imagine that, if we were to ask the public if they wanted to have more exhibits from the Palace Museum more than half a year earlier, everyone should respond positively.

Mrs Lam insisted there was no need to invite public feedback because the arts hub is run by the WKCD Authority, and not the Hong Kong government. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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