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Carrie Lam

Parties, some protests and overseas jaunts: how Hongkongers spent the weekend before Christmas

While many soaked up the festive atmosphere across the city, others championed causes or jetted off to foreign destinations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 December, 2017, 10:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 December, 2017, 10:01pm

Concerts, food festivals, and a sprinkling of protests featured among the yuletide festivities in Hong Kong this year, as the weather became milder after last week’s cold snap.

The Hong Kong Food Festival and the Hong Kong Mega Showcase began on Christmas Eve and will last till Wednesday, with over 800 exhibitors showcasing products ranging from cars to toys at more than 1,300 booths.

Over 1.3 million visitors are expected to attend the exhibition, organiser Hong Kong-Asia Exhibition Ltd. said, calling its event the “largest indoor carnival” this winter. It added that there would be performances by entertainers Jason Chan, Phil Lam, Hubert Wu, and local band Dear Jane.

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At the Hong Kong Food Festival, visitors can try an array of food and beverages from across the world, such as baked pudding from Sapporo, African cream liqueur and Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica.

Other Christmas Eve attractions included a concert for families by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Chorus. Held at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall on Sunday, the performance included songs from the popular Home Alone movie series as well as Christmas favourites such as Jingle Bell Rock and Let It Snow.

Amid the celebrations, some Hongkongers used the holiday weekend to champion causes and make their views heard.

About 200 people marched from Wan Chai to the Hong Kong government’s headquarters in Admiralty to protest against the sale of 17 shopping malls, including wet markets within the complexes, by Asia’s largest real estate investment trust Link Reit.

The deal, announced last month, would see Link offload the malls in Kowloon and the New Territories for HK$23 billion (US$2.95 billion) to a consortium led by Hong Kong-based private equity fund Gaw Capital Partners.

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It sparked concern from residents in nearby public housing estates that the move would further drive up rents, force out family-owned stores and leave them with only expensive chain stores to choose from, views echoed by the protesters on Sunday.

Link, which took over government-owned malls and markets, sold 28 of its shopping malls in public housing estates for HK$11.96 billion over the past three years.

Protester Ng Ching-yan, a member of the Grassroots Bazaar Alliance, said many of the protesters were public housing estate residents and small shop owners.

They supported small enterprises because they were not burdened by high rents and could keep the prices of goods affordable, she said.

Another group of about 20 villagers facing eviction over a controversial public housing plan in Wang Chau in Yuen Long gathered outside Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, calling for better compensation.

The group, from three squatter villages, said they would have to move out on January 1 but only 10 out of the 124 families in the villages had received compensation or help with relocating to new homes.

The festive period also felt less cheery for other Hongkongers, especially the 1,066 patients admitted to the city’s hospitals on Saturday, up from the average daily admission figure of 850. The Hospital Authority said bed occupancy rates were at 99 per cent on average.

Several public hospitals, including the largest one in the city – Queen Elizabeth Hospital – saw bed occupancy rates surge over 100 per cent.

For others, the holiday weekend was a time to unwind and enjoy an overseas jaunt. About 693,000 passengers left the city on Saturday, a 46 per cent increase from Friday’s 473,000 travellers, according to data from the Immigration Department.

About 493,000 passengers also arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday, up 32 per cent from almost 372,000 passengers on Friday.

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Immigration officials estimated that 9.24 million Hong Kong residents and visitors would enter and exit the city by land, air and sea borders throughout the year-end holiday season.

Visitors to the city will enjoy mild weather, with temperatures on Christmas Day expected to hit 19 degrees, with a low of 15 degrees, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.

Next week, the weather is expected to be dry with sunny periods, although it may be cloudier in the latter part of the week.

Watch: Carrie Lam’s Christmas greeting to Hongkongers

On Christmas Eve, chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor posted a video on her official Facebook page showing a party held at Government House with her husband, two sons and government ministers among the attendees.

“This is my first Christmas at the Government House with my family members,” Lam said.

“I am very happy that both of my sons returned from Beijing and America to join the party by the Chief Executive’s Office. I wish everybody a merry Christmas and good health, with everything going well.”