The famous Chinese Palace Museum opened a branch in Hong Kong on Sunday amid a drive to build loyalty to Beijing in the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule 25 years ago.
Calligraphy and paintings on silk dating back more than 1,000 years feature heavily in the gallery, which is located in a seven-story building in the newly developed port-side arts district.
The delicate artworks will be returned to Beijing for safekeeping after 30 days, but Chinese Communist Party leaders want the exhibition’s cultural and political impact to last longer.
The opening of the exhibition came just two days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping celebrated the anniversary of the return of Hong Kong A visit to the so-called Special Autonomous Region and a speech affirming Beijing’s control under its “one country, two systems” vision.
Xi praised the city for weathering “violent social unrest” – a reference to mass pro-democracy protests in 2019 that were followed by a crackdown on dissent and shutdown of independent media.
Beijing’s sweeping national security law saw government critics who did not move abroad either imprisoned or intimidated into silence. This has led to the bias of Hong Kong Ever closely with the strict party controls that are exercised on the mainland and in the outer regions of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.
Political controls increasingly took on cultural and linguistic elements, and the Friday ceremony was held entirely in the national language of Mandarin, rather than the native Cantonese language of Hong Kong.
The construction of the Palace Museum branch in Hong Kong was controversial due to the lack of public consultation, and came as a surprise to many Hong Kong citizens.
Daisy Wang, deputy director of the museum, said the current exhibition represents “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to glimpse some of the rarest early works of painting and calligraphy in Chinese art history.”
The collection was built during the Ming and Qing dynasties and many of its finest works are now on the autonomous island of Taiwan, where they were relocated after the Communists seized power on the mainland in 1949.