Eviction looms again for live house Hidden Agenda, a nurturing ground for indie music

But founder is defiant and accuses the government of hypocrisy and ­unfairly cracking down on the ­creative industry

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 9:04pm

Touted as the city’s biggest stage for independent musicians, Hidden Agenda, as its name suggests, may be a little tricky to get to.

But the live house’s relatively discreet location does little to fend off the watchful eye of government departments, even seeing occasional raids by police and the Fire Services Department.

After relocating twice, Hidden Agenda may now be evicted for the third time, but the founder is defiant as ever and accuses the government of hypocrisy and ­unfairly cracking down on the ­creative industry.

The venue, situated in an ageing Kwun Tong factory block ­surrounded by garages and recycling yards, does not put up neon signs or hire ushers, and even sits next to a plant that processes dishes.

But the 2,000-square-foot live house has played host to thousands of local and overseas bands since it first opened its doors ­seven years ago, slowly earning the reputation as a venue that nurtures young or lesser-known talents.

On a regular evening, it may easily draw an audience of up to 300, packing an open floor and standing within a handshake distance of the performers.

Such popularity – and perhaps its rebellious image – may have made Hidden Agenda the target of regulatory bodies, with the Lands Department being the latest to issue a rectification order.

Hong Kong’s indie music scene fights to survive as two venues close due to high rents

Founder Hui Chung-wo was informed by the department earlier this year that it had violated land lease agreements, which specify the unit is for “industrial and/or warehouse” use only. Rather than complying with the order, which effectively means eviction, he sees it as another way of suppressing the local arts and music scene.

“This is nothing new. When they want to get rid of us, they can always come up with a reason, be it entertainment licences, fire safety regulations or land lease terms,” Hui said.

He has gone through different channels, including seeking help from lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan and even the Legislative Council’s Public Complaints Office, but to no avail.

Without a proper legislative amendment, Hui said, it is best to shut the business for good, rather than find another “hideout” to survive.

The Development Bureau has for years pledged support to revitalise factory buildings. But the policy usually involves tearing down whole buildings to make way for high-rise commercial blocks.

“Existing industrial blocks would have been left vacant ­anyway if they were not leased for non-industrial uses. What’s wrong with such practices?” Hui asked.

Guangzhou-based group Chui Ball Tong, who took to the stage last night, said the collapse of Hidden Agenda would be a ­severe blow for the music scene in the south China region.