Government sets up consultative committee to push ahead cultural district
The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Rafael Hui, announced today (February 21) the setting up of a consultative committee to confirm the need for core arts and cultural facilities in the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) based on public views, as an important step to consolidate past efforts for taking forward the Cultural District in full speed.
Speaking at a meeting of the Legislative Council Subcommittee on WKCD Development, Mr Hui said that although the three screened-in proponents had earlier indicated to the Government their continued interest in participating in the WKCD project, they had not made a positive response to the revised package proposed by the Government in October last year.
"The existing development framework has been revised to address the public concerns. But it has lost market attractiveness. We must accept that there is a significant gap between public demands and commercial reality, and we therefore will not pursue the WKCD under the Invitation for Proposals (IFP) process. We need to consolidate and review our past efforts, with a view to taking forward the WKCD in full speed," the Chief Secretary said.
Mr Hui nevertheless stressed that public aspirations for developing the Cultural District are very clear. Government's objective of developing an arts and cultural district in West Kowloon remained unchanged. "We aim to build for Hong Kong a world-class integrated arts and cultural district that Hong Kong people will take pride in and a must-see for tourists. To ensure the sustainable operation of the WKCD, to enrich arts and cultural diversity, as well as to promote private sector innovation, the Government still prefers to continue to develop the WKCD through Public Private Partnership(s).
"In line with public wish, we shall also establish an independent statutory body to take forward the WKCD project at a suitable juncture," Mr Hui said.
The consultative committee will be chaired by the Chief Secretary. Three advisory groups will be set up under the committee, with two of them tasked respectively with examining and confirming the need for performance venues and museums in the WKCD; and the third will examine the financial implications arising from the development and sustainable operation of these proposed facilities.
The committee will seek to report to the Government on its findings in six months' time. After considering the committee's recommendations, the Government will then decide on the core arts and cultural elements in the WKCD and the mode of development to be adopted.
At the same time, the Government will explain its cultural policy to the general public and the cultural sector. It will also implement a host of measures to improve the "cultural software" so as to allow the arts and cultural sector to thrive in a better environment.
"We will continue to take forward the WKCD project in a fair, open and transparent manner," the Chief Secretary said.
Based on public views, the Government proposed in October last year additional development parameters and conditions (the "October Package") under the existing WKCD development framework. The three screened-in proponents made their initial response to the October Package in end January.
Although all three screened-in proponents indicated to the Government interest in continuing to participate in the WKCD project, they raised a number of questions about the October Package, including arrangements for the carving out of commercial and residential portions, use of sale proceeds from the carved-out portions, contributions towards the $30 billion fund, etc. They had not firmly and clearly committed to continuing to participate in the project under the existing development framework.
In view of this, the Government subsequently sought from the three screened-in proponents an unequivocal expression of positive commitment to accept all conditions and continue to participate in the project under the current development framework as modified by the October Package. In their reply yesterday (February 20), the three proponents did not give a positive response to the October Package. As the Government has stated in October last year, the Government would review how the WKCD should be taken forward in order to meet public aspirations if less than two proponents gave a positive response.
Ends/Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Issued at HKT 22:35