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Hong Kong’s West Kowloon arts hub ‘may delay some infrastructures’ to balance books



Hong Kong’s West Kowloon arts hub ‘may delay some infrastructures’ to balance books

The vice-chairman of Hong Kong’s premier cultural hub has expressed optimism that a deal can soon be struck with the government to avert the arts district’s imminent financial crisis, saying some of the planned infrastructures may be put on hold to balance its book.

Bernard Chan, vice-chairman of the West Kowloon District Authority, told local and mainland Chinese reporters on Saturday that losses were to be expected from the arts hub as cultural institutions in general were “unprofitable”.

“This discussion is still ongoing, but my understanding is that it is rather favourable. They understand the importance of this, so they are not going to pull the plug,” Chan said. “I am sure they will probably come back with certain conditions required.”

The vice-chairman was speaking at a briefing to introduce the city’s premier arts hub to both mainland and local media under a Beijing-organised media tour to promote the Greater Bay Area.

The bay area is Beijing’s plan to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province into a hi-tech economic powerhouse by 2035.

Chan’s comments came a month after Henry Tang Ying-yen, chairman of the West Kowloon District Authority, warned the government it had until August to make a decision on the hub’s proposed funding plan, or risk having its museums open two fewer days every week while its Cantonese opera centre reduces its opening time.

Bernard Chan, vice-chairman of the West Kowloon District Authority. Photo: Eugene Lee

The Post reported earlier that the authority was waiting for a government decision on a proposed funding plan that involves selling part of the arts district’s 40 hectares (99 acres).

The government granted the district’s managing body a one-off endowment of HK$21.6 billion (US$3 billion) for the whole precinct’s development back when it was formed in 2008. Tang said last month that the district’s remaining funds would only last for a year.

Chan said the district’s financial troubles were a “cash flow mismatch” and argued that the arts hub’s finances would improve when future commercial projects flowed in.

“The only problem today is … our income has yet to be generated. The discussion we have now with the government is how to tide us through and to allow us flexibility in terms of our hotels, offices and residential buildings,” Chan explained.

While the construction of the Lyric Theatre Complex in the district was under way, the building of other facilities, such as its Music Centre and Great Theatre, could be put on hold depending on the hub’s financial situation and future development, Chan said.

The hub’s vice-chairman added that to his knowledge, cultural institutions in the world “do not actually break even” and all need some form of support.

“There’s no turning back now. There’s no stopping this [development in the arts]. We can only move forward. Of course, we need to deal with financial pressures, but we can handle this,” Chan said.

Earlier in the day as part of the media tour, Vivian Cheung Kar-fay, acting chief executive officer of the Airport Authority, said the Hong Kong International Airport’s passenger capacity would match its pre-pandemic count by the end of this year.

Cheung also revealed that 20,000 passengers have used its “Fly-via-Zhuhai-HK” programme since its launch last month, which promises a 70-minute journey between the airports, allowing passengers from Hong Kong to connect to other mainland cities via Zhuhai.

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