The chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, on Wednesday delivered her final Policy Address of the current term, emphasizing the mission to seek breakthroughs and transform the city’s future. Among an exhaustive list of plans, I am pleased to see that voices are being heard, and the HKSAR government is finally committed to undertaking the study of establishing a Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau.
As we look forward to the day when these three industries join forces, my recommendation is to plug in promotion and broadcasting functions at the new bureau for greater impact. This can significantly increase the government’s ability to achieve social cohesion and youth support. It can rebrand our city, and diversify our economy, to integrate into the national development. Hong Kong will be better placed to tell the China story effectively and contribute to our country’s soft power.
Our leadership must be strategic and pragmatic, innovative and result-oriented. In the next five years, there are high expectations among residents that the HKSAR government will accomplish at least three tangible goals in the fields of culture, sports, and tourism.
First, I would urge them to materialize the vision of “arts everywhere” and “sports everywhere” in each of the 18 districts in Hong Kong. Putting art in public spaces and community sports facilities will not only beautify an area, it will also invite more residents, especially the youth, to engage in arts and sports on a daily basis. Placemaking, a popular concept globally in urban design, is essentially about creating quality places in which people want to live, work, play and learn.
As we look forward to the day when these three industries join forces, my recommendation is to plug in promotion and broadcasting functions at the new bureau for greater impact. This can significantly increase the government’s ability to achieve social cohesion and youth support. It can rebrand our city, and diversify our economy, to integrate into the national development. Hong Kong will be better placed to tell the China story effectively and contribute to our country’s soft power
The government must go to great lengths to remove red tape and crack the stereotype of elitism in Hong Kong arts and culture. We must make arts accessible to all and visible at all places, such as walls, bridges, and parks. Funding must be increased to support artists who draw inspiration from local neighborhoods and in turn make meaningful artworks to inspire the wider public. This mutually beneficial relationship helps develop long-term bonds in communities.
Citing Xinhua subdistrict in Shanghai as an example, a public arts experiment was held recently where 30 local artists physically moved into the community to spend time and co-create artworks with the residents. In 2016, Taizhou city in Zhejiang province passed legislation of a “One Percent for Public Art Program”, stating that 1 percent of construction costs on urban development projects should go toward public art. Jinhua city, also in Zheijang province, followed suit with a similar program in 2019.
Ordinary sports facilities can enjoy grand makeovers with art. Colorful sports grounds are known to be attractive even for tourists as unique travel destinations. I would encourage the government to start from Mong Kok’s famous Macpherson Playground, Wan Chai’s Southorn Playground and Victoria Park, or public housing estates with the assistance of the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society. Through creative designs and paintings, we can showcase our culture of East meeting West as well as connecting people in the celebration of art.
Based on my personal experience, culture and sports are the best carriers to interact with youth. Many local youths are enthusiastic about placemaking in the community, as seen in many successful projects initiated by civil society. If our government keeps up with the trend, it will be able to gather more support, increase youth participation, and eventually strengthen the sense of belonging among the younger generation in Hong Kong.
Second, I would advocate for a five-year development master plan that fully exploits the synergy of the West Kowloon Cultural District and Kai Tak Sports Park. It would contain important guidance to local sports and cultural industries. The plan must be in sync with the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, not just at a market or industry level, but also at an ideological, thinking process and policy level.
The government must be an active host to connect with other cities when launching a series of culture, sports, and tourism programs, thereby stimulating the flow of local Hong Kong people, residents on the mainland and overseas visitors to check into the Greater Bay Area. We have to leverage the West Kowloon Cultural District and Kai Tak Sports Park to stand out in the region’s map for travelers across the world.
Hong Kong must be diligent in building partnerships with other theaters, museums, galleries, public libraries, and sports stadiums in the Greater Bay Area. The more, the merrier. Such partnerships can bring us fresh perspectives, elevate our thinking, and embrace a more diverse audience. These will benefit our overall position in the global culture, sports, and tourism landscape.
“Culture+” that encourages the development of new business models in the cultural industry is a notion that is worth promoting. Crossovers between culture and sports, tourism, technology, media, film, fashion and gastronomy can enrich consumers’ experience and create new products. A facilitative government can lead the way for individuals and companies to raise competitiveness in the creative industry.
Despite the pandemic, Hong Kong overtook London to become the world’s second-largest market for contemporary fine arts auctions with a share of 23.2 percent by value, according to a report from art market analysis firm ArtTactic. Many new transaction records of well-known local artworks were witnessed in Hong Kong. Art Basel made a spectacular return to the city with galleries and art lovers from around the globe. I am optimistic the art scene has rosy prospects to be the world’s top art market, and Hong Kong can consider the repurposing of obsolete industrial buildings for high-end fine art storage business.
With “Sports for All” as an overarching theme, we should encourage more systematic development of sports as an industry, in addition to the government’s existing push for promoting sports in the community, supporting elite sports development, and promoting Hong Kong as a center for major international sports events. Co-hosting the National Games 2025 with Guangdong province and Macao is a wonderful chance to upgrade Hong Kong into an international professional services center for sports and tourism.
By extending our advantages of a business-friendly environment, a credible legal system and the brand-new mega infrastructure at Kai Tak Sports Park, Hong Kong is well positioned to provide higher value-added services in the areas of sports businesses, sports brands, sports intellectual properties, sports science and data management, sports litigation, sports media, and sports philanthropy. In the long run, young people in Hong Kong are likely the greatest beneficiaries from growth of these industries.
Finally, Hong Kong is in need of a suitable content creation and dissemination strategy to tell the China story more effectively and contribute to our country’s soft power. In my view, the West Kowloon Cultural District and Kai Tak Sports Park can be ideal platforms. A simple brainstorm would bring ideas; for instance, gathering the top artists and scholars in China and other countries to an annual “International Cultural Summit” in Hong Kong for cross-cultural dialogue, or curating real-life episodes that can exhibit our country in multiple dimensions through “Telling the China Story” media production.
On the sports front, the government should mobilize private sector companies to co-organize world-class competition events and bring in additional high-quality sports resources. Title sponsorship and branding collaboration are some common means to increase funding for sports and build a complete ecosystem. Other content to attract millennials includes thematic travel experiences to explore the natural scenery of Hong Kong or the historical architecture with hybrid Chinese and Western characteristics.
The right content strategy is accompanied by targeting the right audiences. Our government should utilize different channels to disseminate content to different audience. RTHK and other local television channels should source local and international high-quality cultural programs and sports events for domestic households in Hong Kong.
The government’s offices on the mainland should learn to use social media wisely, such as WeChat public accounts, Douyin and Weibo, and invite key opinion leaders to promote Hong Kong as an arts and cultural center between the East and West. Similarly, the government should build a stronger presence on Twitter, YouTube, and with the assistance of the economic and trade offices in foreign cities, develop more productive media relations that can generate international attention.
These are my immediate responses to Lam’s Policy Address in the areas of culture, sports, and tourism. Going forward, I look forward to exchanging views on the establishment of this important bureau and look forward to exchanging views with stakeholders in the sectors.
The author is a board member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.