The opening of the exhibition came just two days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping marked the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return with a visit to what is officially called the special autonomous region and a speech emphasizing control of Beijing as part of its “one country, two systems” vision. ”
Xi praised the city for overcoming “violent social unrest”, a reference to massive pro-democracy protests in 2019 that were followed by a crackdown that stifled dissent and shut down independent media.
The sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing has seen government critics who have not moved abroad jailed or bullied into silence. This aligned Hong Kong increasingly closely with the rigid party controls exercised on the mainland and in the outer regions of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.
Political checks increasingly took on cultural and linguistic elements, and Friday’s ceremony was conducted entirely in the national language of Mandarin, rather than native Hong Kong Cantonese.
The construction of the Palace Museum branch in Hong Kong was controversial due to lack of public consultation and surprised many Hong Kong citizens.
Daisy Wang, deputy director of the museum, said the current exhibition is “a unique opportunity to look at some of the rarest early works of painting and calligraphy in the history of Chinese art.”
The collection was built during the Ming and Qing dynasties and many of its finest works now reside on the self-governing island of Taiwan, where they were taken after the communists took over the mainland in 1949.