Henry Tang Ying-yen, chairman of the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, and member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. (ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY)
Taking pride in China’s consistently excellent track record in art and cultural exchanges with the world, Henry Tang Ying-yen, a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is upbeat about Hong Kong’s crucial role in leading and advancing the country’s cultural dialogue on the global podium.
He applauds the central government’s emphasis on cultural development, highlighted in Premier Li Keqiang’s government work report at the opening meeting of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress on Sunday.
“I’m very pleased that the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2015) assigns Hong Kong to be the art and cultural center for international and domestic exchanges. I’m very confident that Hong Kong is in an ideal position and our West Kowloon Cultural District is playing a pivotal role together with the HKSAR government to this end,” Tang, who also chairs the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said at a zoom meeting with the media.
To cut the mustard as a global art and cultural hub and in alignment with the WKCD’s vision to become a major force on the diplomatic front of Hong Kong’s art and cultural promotion, Tang is confident it can be done.
“I’m very positive and bullish about Hong Kong’s cultural development socially and economically,” he said. “Hong Kong’s society has evolved and developed into one that’s diverse in cultural activities. We are inclusive of (people from) all the cultures who come and live in Hong Kong and call Hong Kong their home. They work here, they live here, and they integrate very well with Hong Kong society. Moreover, they’ve brought cultural nuances and cultural diversity to this already culturally vibrant city.”
Visitors line up to be among the first to view the national treasures on display at the Hong Kong Palace Museum as it opened to the public on July 3, 2022. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)
The WKCD has manifested both its hard and soft powers with its world-class museums, art venues, performances, as well as exhibits on loan from Beijing Palace Museum and treasures from Europe, said Tang. All these reflect Hong Kong’s eclectic edge and capacity in promoting culture from “both East and West”.
M+ Museum and Hong Kong Palace Museum have, so far, attracted more than 2.4 million and 830,000 visitors, respectively.
As far as business is concerned, art and culture are “more than a fruit for the soul or the mind”, noted Tang, and it can be an economically rewarding industry in terms of employment and as fodder for a variety of businesses.
In Hong Kong, the cultural and creative industry is abuzz with knowledge-based activities spurred by creativity and intellectual capital, and consistently accounts for about 5 percent of the city’s gross domestic product and 6.2 percent of total employment.
To justify Hong Kong’s cachet as an art auction hub, the city needs to look no further than the substantially milder decline in art auction sales at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 — merely 2 percent and in stark contrast to double-digit slumps in New York and London. The special administrative region remained in second place in the world’s art auction market, overtaking London.
Art aficionados from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area are already conspicuously present in Hong Kong’s art auction scene, and will continue to do so since it’s now just a breeze coming to the SAR, said Tang, in response to China Daily’s question about tapping into the artistic sophistication and purchasing power of high-net-worth individuals in the Greater Bay Area.
“I’m striving to democratize Hong Kong’s art auction market, where even ordinary residents can admire and appreciate the artists and their pieces of art showcased here,” said Tang. The extra bonus, he said, is the creation of employment opportunities for the younger generation “who aspire to set foot in the culture industry”, which will also reap economic benefits.
Inspired by the financial summit Hong Kong hosted in November last year with great fanfare and roaring success, which attracted financial leaders from across to see for themselves that “Hong Kong is back”, Tang said he’ll propose organizing a cultural summit, “where we’ll invite leaders from global major museums and, hopefully, senior party leaders from the central government, particularly from the NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission) to come here to grace our cultural feast”.
Tang sees the proposed cultural summit as an ideal occasion for the SAR to broadcast to the world: “We’re serious about fulfilling our role as an exchange center of East and West culture.”
The coronavirus scourge may have disrupted the creative industry, but Tang believes the “lull”is a “seed sowing” spell, which has nourished and primed the city for a comeback, thanks to the full resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, with interactions and engagement with international communities abound.
On a different note, Tang applauded the central government’s commitment to optimizing the nation’s foreign investment ecosystem by expanding market access and establishing 21 pilot free trade zones.
While he welcomed Premier Li’s call for doubling down on efforts to attract foreign investors, he hopes to introduce a Qualified Foreign Limited Partnership scheme to facilitate foreign investors’ entry into the Chinese market.
“They’re now using various proxies for investments, but I think the QFLP will greatly increase the nation’s potential to lure more foreign capital,” said Tang.
Innovation and technology startups, as well as emerging companies that are in dire need of economic support, would also stand to gain without having to go public, he said.