• News
  • May 20, 2024

HK Government Warned Over Arts Hub Financial Woes

Portrait of HENRY TANG, chairman of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, at the Election Forum on the Rule of Law and Core Values in December 2012. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. 

Henry Tang, chairman of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA), has warned the government that it must address the district’s funding crisis by August if its museums and performing arts center are to avoid closure.

Home to M+ and the Palace Museum, as well as the Xiqu Centre, the WKCD recorded net losses that almost doubled, from HKD 869 million (USD 111 million) in 2021 to HKD 1.56 billion (USD 199 million) in 2022. Despite a 40-percent cost recovery after the pandemic, the arts hub has until now relied on short-term loans to stay afloat.

“If the government is late on announcing a plan [or responding to our proposals], we have an urgent need to take relatively large action in terms of reducing expenses,” Tang told i-Cable News on Saturday. Tang’s latest ultimatum appears targeted at government officials who have positioned the WKCD as a tourist magnet while also being slow to respond to serious budgetary concerns.

Significant cost-cutting measures could include reducing the number of days per week that the museums are open by two, as well as limiting operating hours of the opera house. “But will this be fair to the public?” Tang asked in the interview. “After all, this is not a commercial undertaking but a key public policy project.” He also suggested that ongoing bankruptcy issues facing the arts hub could potentially impact the city’s aspirations to become an international cultural exchange center under China’s 14th five-year plan.

The former Chief Secretary has been voicing his concerns about the WKCD’s finances since last August, predicting that its HKD 21.6 billion (USD 3 billion) budget would run out by June 2025. He also described already-implemented cuts to programing as “lifeblood flowing out like a stream.”

The WKCDA has actively proposed ways to increase revenue, including reviewing service charges, ticket prices, and venue rental fees in order to bolster its financial situation. A spokesman for the Culture, Sports, and Tourism Bureau confirmed that it is seeking independent counsel, but has yet to approve any measures.    

Anna Lentchner is assistant editor at ArtAsiaPacific.

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