The results of the public consultation were released yesterday. The “official” result was that 52% of respondents supported the project whilst 48% either opposed or had no opinion. Duncan Pescod, CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said that in any project, there will be people who’d oppose, and that the next step was to understand why their reasons for doing so and follow up with more consultations.
There is no need to ask the public whether to build the museum
Tanya Chan Suk-chong, who is in the subcommittee that monitors the District’s developments, was not convinced: “There is also a problem with the consultation: it did not ask the key question of whether the city’s version of the Palace Museum should be built at all.” Captain Obvious will answer that question: There’s no need to ask because the Government has already decided to build the museum and will do so regardless.
The HKSAR Government never intended a public consultation
The purpose of the consultation was to justify the Government’s project. If you didn’t already get the memo, let me explain why the Government will build the Palace Museum. First and foremost, the museum was a matter between the Central Government and Carrie Lam (whether as CY Leung’s representative or as the prospective CE). The public consultation was merely a formality to justify the project after the fact.
To Beijing, the Palace Museum is about national integrity
The real purpose of the Palace Museum was clearly part of the nation-building process for Beijing. As many HongKongers have become radical in the post-Occupy era, as witnessed in last year’s Legislative Council elections and the oath saga, Beijing considers Hong Kong in dire need of national integration. The Museum was in part Beijing’s response to Hong Kong’s radicalism and to better integrate the HKSAR into the nation.
Directive from Central Government to CE is within the Basic Law
Under Article 48 of the Basic Law, the Chief Executive has a duty to implement the directives issued by the Central People’s Government on matters relating to the Basic Law. And one of the premises of the Basic Law is that the HKSAR is an inalienable part of the PRC. Thus, a broad interpretation of this article is that a directive to build the Palace Museum would well be within the legal authority of the Central Government.
Pushing through the building of the Palace Museum will prove Carrie Lam’s loyalty to Beijing. This was clearly part of the deal for Beijing’s support for Lam as CE. If she does not have the will to push through this project, then she will be seen as weak or disloyal in the eyes of Beijing. After all, the project is not just about HongKongers. It’s about whether Lam could prove her worth by following the Central Government’s directives pursuant to Article 48 of the Basic Law.