For our second in-person discovery event, we were fortunate to engage in a deep conversation with Bernard Chan in Tai Kwun on the topic of the future of Hong Kong. The exchange, moderated by Melo co-founder Louisa Mak, was so compelling that we decided to prolong it, foregoing the cross-team check in also scheduled later that day.
Mr. Chan, the convenor of the Executive Council, is also a prominent figure in the Hong Kong arts scene, being the Chairman of the M+ Museum, the Tai Kwun Limited Board of Directors as well as the Hong Kong Palace Museum set to open in July. A focus of our conversation was the shift in Hong Kong's perception of arts and culture; compared to 30 years ago when he earned his degree in Studio Arts, Hong Kong has undergone a positive transformation, providing today many more opportunities and life paths for creatives. Mr. Chan highlighted the importance of arts and culture in building Hong Kong's soft power and influence regionally and internationally; more than a financial hub, the future of Hong Kong depends on cultivating diversity, multidimensionality, as well as improving quality of life to attract top talent globally.
Hong Kong's unique position between the East and the West makes it a hub for cultural exchange and social connection. In Mr. Chan's words, "Hong Kong's future is not just in one direction, but in connecting everyone". Art can express differences in each beholder's world view, but whether we agree or disagree with specific works, experiencing a diversity of perspectives through art fosters understanding. Speaking of the coming Palace Museum exhibitions, Mr. Chan discussed the importance of stories as a pathway for exchange; creating and sharing stories can create a common ground in an increasingly polarised society. Mr. Chan's empowering words to appreciate different forms of representation, learn to celebrate difference and accept each other were a message of hope for Hong Kong's youth.
Caught between historical influences of the West and China, Hong Kong enjoys the advantages of this duality, but also experiences the burdens of navigating two contrasting views of the world and governance. Mr. Chan's long political career incited the curiosity of many Melo Fellows, who had questions on topics ranging from changing COVID policies, privatisation of the MTR, the Hong Kong judiciary system to the "One Country Two Systems" constitutional principle. An optimist grounded in realism, Mr. Chan emphasised the importance of taking advantage of the unique political system of Hong Kong, and the motivation for change in a previously more risk-averse society. Through it all, Mr. Chan urged us to be informed, learn the importance of free dialogue, breaking assumptions, and communication for a better future. His final thought: the future of Hong Kong depends on the next generation's decisions. The rest is up to us!