Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung (center) visits the Big Air Shougang — a Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games venue that was repurposed from a steel mill — in Beijing on Monday. (Photo / HKSAR government)

Hong Kong is set to deepen its cultural cooperation with the Chinese mainland in its bid to transform itself into a hub for arts and culture, said the city’s culture chief. 

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, secretary for culture, sports and tourism, had laid out a road map for advancing the city’s lofty goal to local media in early March, saying the special administrative region government will work to enhance ties on all fronts, including training arts talents, creating artistic activities, promoting the tourism industry and leveraging the vast land resources of the mainland, especially the other cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, for performance and large-scale activities. 

The goal, set out in the country’s 14th Five-Year plan (2021-25), aims to develop Hong Kong as a hub for arts and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world. 

In Yeung’s opinion, Hong Kong is ideally positioned for that role, as Chinese culture is the root and origins of Hong Kong culture, and the city has long attracted people from various cultures because of its history and international influence. 

These cultures have not only developed independently in the city but have also merged with each other, eventually shaping Hong Kong’s unique cultural characteristics, which are reflected in every aspect of life in the city, including clothing, food, housing, transportation, movies, and television, Yeung said. 

Hong Kong can use these unique cultural characteristics to tell Chinese stories well and enhance the international community’s understanding of Chinese culture, Yeung said.

The Hong Kong Palace Museum, showcasing treasures from the Palace Museum in Beijing and telling the story of traditional Chinese culture in a Hong Kong curatorial style, is an exemplary case in this regard, Yeung said. 

By positioning Hong Kong as a hub for arts and cultural exchanges, Hong Kong can also serve as a cultural bridge, allowing different cultures to understand, appreciate and respect each other.

To achieve this goal, Hong Kong will further increase its cultural cooperation with the mainland, Yeung said. 

Hong Kong can use its distinctive advantages — those of enjoying the strong support of its motherland and of being closely connected to other cities in the GBA — to speed up cultural development.

For example, Hong Kong — a city with limited cultural facilities — can use the land resources of the GBA to organize cultural activities. Hong Kong artists can also visit the mainland to increase their performance opportunities and grow their audiences, as the local market is small.

Also, Hong Kong will further cooperate with the mainland to nurture arts talents, according to Yeung.

The government has asked the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, a top ranking performing arts college in Asia, to establish a new campus in the Northern Metropolis, a mega city project currently underway in Hong Kong’s borderlands near Shenzhen, and raise the proportion of nonlocal students.

A slew of culture-related events has already been planned in Hong Kong to further its culture and arts ambitions. 

Coming up in late March, the government will present the Museum Summit 2023, when 30 experts from renowned museums worldwide will visit Hong Kong to exchange experiences on the development of museums. Experts from the Dongguan Museum, located in Dongguan in the Greater Bay Area, will attend, Yeung said. 

In 2024, Hong Kong will host the GBA Culture and Arts Festival, which was last held in Guangzhou in 2022. According to the 2023-24 Budget unveiled in late February, the government has earmarked HK$20 million ($2.55 million) for the festival, which is expected to attract 5,000 Hong Kong and mainland artists and 140,000 festival-goers. 

In addition, Yeung said that Hong Kong will boost cooperation with the Palace Museum in Beijing, and send more local arts groups to perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts.

The SAR government is also discussing policies with their mainland counterparts on how to tempt tourists visiting Hong Kong to extend their stays to visit other cities in the GBA. 

Other cities in the GBA also have their own cultural characteristics and tourist attractions, and Hong Kong could serve as a core zone for multi-destination tourism, introducing tourists to neighboring cities, and thus promoting tourism development in the whole GBA, Yeung said. 

Yeung’s idea is in keeping with the latest policy relaxation on tourist visas for foreigners visiting the Chinese mainland. On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced the resumption of visa-free access for foreign tourism groups from Hong Kong and Macao entering Guangdong province, and from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries entering Guilin, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. This will also provide a boost to Hong Kong’s tourism industry, with the city serving as an important stop in multi-destination travel for foreign visitors. 

Pre-dating his meeting with local media, Yeung had taken a trip to Beijing in February, where he had met with Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping, Deputy Administrator of the National Cultural Heritage Administration Gu Yucai, and other officials of the central government.

Impressed by the officials’ knowledge of Hong Kong’s cultural strengths, Yeung said he’d had a friendly conversation with them and had received many important suggestions, which had further boosted his confidence in the city’s cultural cooperation with the mainland and its cultural development.