|Cultural Policy: An Evolution|
|Written by Sky Canaves|
|Tuesday, 08 May 2007|
Hong Kong's cultural policy under colonial rule has been described as lax and scattered. Indeed, one could say that the current stereotype of Hong Kong as a cultural desert is a legacy of the colonial age.
"There has always been criticism that there is not really a cultural policy in Hong Kong," said Desmond Hui, professor of architecture and Director of the Centre for Cultural Policy Research at the University of Hong Kong. "But that's not true because there's always a policy if money is being spent. The decision to deploy resources is itself policy."
The administration of arts and culture in Hong Kong has undergone major changes since the mid-1990s, when the preparatory period for the 1997 handover was underway. Cultural matters, previously under the auspices of the the Urban Councils and the two Municipal Councils, are now administered by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Arts and Development Council. An official version of the government's cultural policy statement can be found on the website of the Home Affairs Bureau.
The Arts Development Council is a statutory body founded in 1995 and replaced the former Council of Performing Arts. The Arts Development Council is responsible for promoting broad development of the arts, making recommendations to the government on cultural policy and providing funding for cultural organizations.
"The role of the Arts Development Council is to act as a sort of buffer between the government and arts organizations," said Tobias Berger, Curator of Para/Site Art Space , a visual arts non-profit. The Arts Development Council has also been criticized for lacking the necessary power and resources to implement policies directly, further hindering the promotion of cultural activities in the territory.
The LCSD organizes a more limited array of artistic and cultural activities, but it is primarily responsible for managing a number of cultural facilities (as well as recreation facilities such as swimming pools and beaches). It supervises the operation of 15 performance venues and 16 museums in Hong Kong. Another increasingly important part of the organization is the Antiquities and Monuments Office, which is responsible for heritage conservation and education in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's government is reknowned for establishing consultation bodies to tackle social and political issues. In April 2000, the Culture and Heritage Commission was established to advise on cultural policy and funding priorities. Three years later, the Culture and Heritage Commission issued its Policy Recommendation Report, which included numerous proposals for the revitalization of Hong Kong's cultural policy, and was disbanded shortly thereafter. Six principles articulated by the advisory board have been adopted by the Hong Kong government as part of its official cultural policy. However, some of the more radical proposals set out by the Culture and Heritage Commission were not carried out, including a plan to establish a commissioner for culture and a proposal to privatize some of the LCSD's work.
The six general principles guiding Hong Kong's cultural policy are: "people-oriented", "pluralism", "freedom of expression and protection of intellectual property", "holistic approach", "partnership" and "community-driven." These broad concepts are in line with the government's stated intention of promoting a descriptive, rather than prescriptive approach, in order to preserve artistic and intellectual freedom.
"The government has been proud to say that they take a more liberal view instead of spelling out everything, but this is an area of contention," said Professor Hui. "If something is vague it can also be easily manipulated. The government could be bolder in spelling out certain principles."
Professor Hui says that the government could also do more to develop the non-profit sector, particularly among corporations and wealthy individuals, as a study on philanthropic contribution in Hong Kong found that most charitable giving is focused primarily on educational causes. "Maybe there should be more advocacy, to slowly groom a culture of patronage and sponsorshop for the arts," said Hui.
At present, non-profits in arts and culture tend to develop organically, as part of the work of a few dedicated individuals, though the upcoming Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre will be a notable exception.
For more resources on Hong Kong's arts and culture, click here.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 May 2007 )|
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