A host of unfavorable figures or indicators made known in the past few months have drawn public attention to the plight of Hong Kong’s inbound tourism and stoked worries about its future: Visitor arrivals declined 4.5 percent in 2016; Ocean Park announced a loss of HK$241 million for the past financial year — its first in over a decade; Hong Kong Disneyland also recorded a loss of HK$1.48 billion for the same financial year; and retail sales fell for the 21st straight month in November. In fact, official data indicates a consistent decline in the city’s retail sales since 2013 through 2016.
At a time when Hong Kong is struggling with a persistent decline in its economically vital inbound tourism, there is no question that any measure aimed at revitalizing the sector is a welcome one. The plan to build a Hong Kong version of the Palace Museum is, therefore, cause for celebration for Hong Kong people.
What a local miniature Palace Museum will have to offer is far more than the economic benefits which robust inbound tourism offers. It will also generate cultural riches for the city, as has been the case with the British Museum, the Louvre Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for, respectively, London, Paris and New York.
Hong Kong is privileged to play host to the mini-Palace Museum. Such a privilege undoubtedly is the envy of many first-tier mainland cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. They would have fought tooth and nail to win the project had it been offered to public tender. And yet, we are now witnessing strong objection to the project from some quarters of Hong Kong society — especially the “localists”.
Lack of public consultation is the reason cited for the objection. This is no doubt a noble reason. But the “localists” would be naive to think they could fool people with such a handy excuse, one which has been abused over recent years. Hong Kong people are well aware that the opposition to the mini-Palace Museum project originates from an anti-mainland sentiment built on political bias.
Driven by this anti-mainland sentiment, some members of the opposition camp, particularly the “localists”, have been vocal in opposing just anything that could bring the SAR closer to the mainland either mentally or physically. From the most recent proposals to build a Hong Kong version of the Palace Museum and develop the Lok Ma Chau Loop with Shenzhen to the earlier projects of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, we have witnessed strong opposition, without exception, from this camp.