Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
Thanks for your visit and give us a candid and cosy class reunion. It is welcoming to see you participating in the 2017 Art Basel in Hong Kong to showcase the highest quality art works of your leading gallery. Hope you find it a useful platform to promote the creativity and diversity of Asian and Asian-Pacific cultures.
Hong Kong is dynamic and multifaceted. Shortly after your departure, we witnessed the fifth term Chief Executive Election last month. With the Chief Executive-Elect Mrs Carrie Lam, the public are eager to see Hong Kong thrive and prospers in her good hands. As the elected Legislative Council Member, I look forward to seeing her pay heeds to the concerns of local Sports, Cultural, Filming and Publication sectors. Their voices, clear and loud, are listed in the following five areas.
First and foremost, the greatest challenge we face is land constraint. The long-term outstanding problem of hunger for arts performing venues and sports grounds has never ever been satisfied. The vivid example is shown in over-booking of performing venues in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. To the disappointment of arts groups, nearly 90 percent applications are rejected annually. What a great loss to our fellow artists and arts groups and also the audience. In fact, booking private venues for performing and rehearsing is not viable either. Our arts groups find a way out by looking up vacant industrial buildings. But the tragic fire accident of a mini warehouse last year killed this option of alternative studios, music workshops and semi theatres. The Building Department stepped up stringent measures against fire precautions as a result. Our musicians and artists have nowhere to practise and perform. It is high time to rescue our performing sector and overhaul the current regulations for industrial premises. The incoming Government should speed up opening more school sports grounds and halls, maximise unused school buildings and unoccupied government land.
Secondly, Hong Kong cultural industry deserves more solid and useful support from the incoming Government. It should redefine its multiple roles simultaneously as the provider of land and financial assistance, a referee and regulator for monitoring the use of public resources and funding policies. In reality, not much has been done to understand the real concerns and hardship of running these cultural and filming industries. Sometimes polices tend to be high-sounding and impractical for promotion but bringing hindrances to the development. The good example is the creation of Community Cultural Ambassador Scheme. To comply with anti-corruption clout of stepping up scrutiny of public funding, recipients of arts groups were informed by LCSD officials to open independent designated bank accounts. But such a mandatory measure should allow sufficient time and some small arts groups which felt insecure to meet this requirement decided to drop the agreement with LCSD (Leisure and Cultural Services Department). Such bureaucratic implementation makes the originally fair request mean and causes nuisances. Only with a new mind set and user-friendly approach, can our government officials build a partnership with our fellow practitioners in cultural sector that forges synergy and brings Hong Kong to a new horizon.
Thirdly, it is time to plug the loopholes in Hong Kong’s copyright regime. With the advent of Internet, daily lives of mankind, ways of communications and forms of entertainment has been revolutionised. Digital piracy goes so viral that exploits our writers, artists, singers, film producers and publishers. Due to political bickering, updated versions of copyright bills were laid aside after prolonged filibusters in the Legislative Council. This unfortunate miscarriage has left Hong Kong lagging behind from other 94 countries of signatories of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) copyright treaty, failing to comply with global legal obligation.
Digital piracy is as rampant as in physical books in public libraries. In fact, library is a major attribute for local publication as bulk purchase and high circulations by libraries are significant as compared to the small local publication market. Library remunerating authors and publishers is a global trend but has yet introduced locally. Lending books to the public will exploit book authors and publishers and they should be remunerated by libraries. It is a show of support and respect to the publication profession. But local publication sector has fought an uphill battle. Safeguarding copyrights is the breeding ground for nurturing intellectual and creative industries. I sincerely wish the incoming Chief Executive demonstrate her will power by convincing the public the significance of protecting of intellectual property by updating the legal regime in Hong Kong.
Fourthly, improving remunerations and benefits for practitioners in the sectors has been on my election pledge and top priority. Last year, I conducted a survey on income of all local arts practitioners. The findings exhibited a gloomy picture about low income of cultural sector which lags far behind from those in government departments despite having similar credentials. Such a wide income disparity also occurs to in publication and sports sectors. Dedication to pursue ideal is demanding and cruel as one has to make big sacrifices with little tangible rewards. For those who cannot stand the heat leave the kitchen for survival. It is a matter of equity and justice why private practitioners are not on par with their counterparts in public bodies. If this situation prevails, young talents may not join Arts, Cultural, Sports and Publication sectors as their professions or careers. It is pressing to overhaul existing remunerations of these sectors. I am looking forward to seeing our next CE can provide a solid proposal to the issue.
Last but not least, implementation and execution of the current cultural and sports policies is the key to the future development of Hong Kong’s sports and culture. These policies are in the hands of Home Affairs Bureau and Commerce and Economic Development Bureau. The failure to create a new Cultural Bureau by incumbent government is rather disappointing. I sincerely wish the incoming government can take bold a revamp of existing government structure. The tripartite model of the Korean government of The Ministry of Cultural, Sports and Tourism by the Republic of Korean government is commendable for us. Only by collaborating our different edges, can Hong Kong thrive and flourish on a higher platform of diversity, creativity and dynamism.
Steve, I look forward to hearing your precious views. See you next time!
Dear Hong Kong Citizens,
As you may have noticed, the grade one historic building in Tuen Mun known as the Hung Lau has been put into the spotlight recently due to the damages that it has sustained by developers. The attitude and efficiency the H.K. government exhibited (after the damages were known) was totally unacceptable, and calls into question how effective our current heritage conservation policy is in protecting historic monuments.
The Hung Lau, which means "Red House" in Cantonese, is historically important as it is said to be linked to Dr. Sun Yat-sen during the Chinese republican revolutionary days. Yet, trees surrounding the Hung Lau were chopped down, parts of the walls surrounding the building were torn down, even the water supply was cut off forcefully in February. I visited the site with Tuen Mun local residents as soon as I knew about these damages, and saw no sign that such work would stop. I wrote to Secretary of Development Eric Ma immediately, requesting him to declare the Hung Lau a ‘proposed monument’ under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. On 1st of March, Antiquities Advisory Board, abbreviated as AAB, stated that it would not declare the building a ‘proposed monument’, and that it would only declare it as such, only if it should sustain any further damages in the future, a decision I find ill-informed and completely unreasonable. On 8th of March, multiple windows of Hung Lau were damaged and only then did the Antiquities and Monuments Office declare it a ‘proposed monument’. The way how things turned out not only showed how incapable the government is when protecting historic monuments, it also shows how little significance is attached to heritage conservation.
When a building that has not been declared a monument is about to be demolished, such work could only take place after permission from "Building Department" or "Lands Department" under the "Building Ordinance" (Cap12) and "Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance". However, as seen in the case of the Hung Lau, when damages were reported and demolishing work started to take place, the only action taken by the authorities was Building Department issuing a Notice and putting it in an obvious spot, which fails to act as a deterrent. Lessons learnt from past examples have also shown the unavoidably repeated fate of demolition even if the monuments were given a grade one status, like that of Queen’s Pier and Star Ferry Pier. It is also worth mentioning that Ho Tung Gardens and the Complex of King Yin Lei at Stubbs Road were also granted a "proposed monument" status after they were damaged, which further demonstrates the government’s incapability of protecting ungraded historical buildings.
The Chief Executive appoints the chairman and members of the board of AAB (Antiquities Advisory Board), which explains why its members are all his supports and confidants, making the Broad as a consultative panel full of politicians and businessmen. Only four members of the board have archaeological and historical backgrounds, the rest of them are from fields such as planning, accounting, politics and information and technology. This undoubtedly questions the legitimacy of AAB Antiquities Advisory Board. Moreover, under such leadership, discussions inside Antiquities Advisory Board are inevitably driven by development and business interests. Heritage conservation is an important step towards achieving sustainable development, but such goal seems more difficult to achieve when the effectiveness of Antiquities Advisory Board is hampered by the way the CE appoints its members.
To ensure that buildings with historical significance are protected, the Historic Buildings Grading System should be added into the jurisdiction of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, This would prevent private property owners from tearing down any buildings of historical value, and ensure that buildings that are not declared a monument could also be protected. In addition, the Antiquities and Monuments Office should increase its transparency and accountability by allowing public participation and the nomination of representatives from the corresponding fields. Lastly, the government should also consider setting up an Architectural Heritage Fund that is responsible for conserving historic buildings and monuments.
Even though the Hung Lau is currently declared a ‘proposed monument', the building is only safe for a year. Thus, I hope the building will be declared a monument, so that the public can know more about the building and its history in the future. Like many fellow citizens, I also hope the publicity this series of events has generated can help raise the public’s awareness to Hong Kong’s heritage conservation policy.