Sars concert upsets residents

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 May, 2003, 12:00am

Police received complaints about noise during the show to raise money for orphaned children

Residents near the Hong Kong Stadium called police to complain about the noise while a concert was being staged there on Saturday to raise money for the children of Sars victims.

They were condemned yesterday for being heartless and selfish.

Police received five complaints, including at least two from non-Chinese residents, about noise between 12.35pm and 11pm. They asked the police to convey their complaints to the concert organisers.

One of the complainants, known only as Ms Leung, insisted the organisers contact her directly so she could express her anger personally.

The '1:99 Concert' started just after 4pm and ended at 11pm, but rehearsals started several hours earlier. Among the stars appearing were Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, Andy Lau Tak-wah, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing and Kelly Chan Wai-lum. So far $18 million has been raised.

The vice-chairman of the Performing Artist's Guild, Ho Kam-wah, last night expressed his sadness that the event could attract such complaints.

'We thought Hong Kong people had a heart,' he said.

However, he was quick to say that only a few residents had been upset and on behalf of the organisers, he apologised for causing any inconvenience.

Mr Ho said organisers had given considerable thought to the noise issue before launching the concert and had sent out more than 7,000 letters to people living nearby to explain why the concert was being held and that they were hoping to raise money for youngsters who had been orphaned during the Sars outbreak.

Canto-pop singer William So Wing-hong, who also took part in the concert, called on those residents who had complained to show some love for the children and for Hong Kong.

'Have a heart and don't be so selfish,' he said. 'It's only a couple of hours. I wonder why they could not bare it?'

Helena, a member of the pop group Cookies, said the family of her fellow-band member Kary also lives in the area and they did not find the noise to be a problem.

Cheung Chiu-hung, a social science lecturer at Hong Kong Polytechnic, said last night: 'It's a pity that some people complained about such a noble and meaningful event.

'Where's our heart? What has happened to the people of Hong Kong? Are we that selfish?'

But Mr Cheung said it was fortunate that only a few people had complained.

Ada Wong Ying-kay, a Wan Chai district councillor, said organisers might have overlooked the noise issue because the concert had been organised in a hurry. But she said it had been 'quite a success', and that the organisers and performers deserved praise.

A police spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that they had received five reports and that officers had informed the organisers of the noise complaints. But as far as the police were concerned, they would not be taking things any further.

The Environmental Protection Department is responsible for such complaints and it was not immediately clear last night whether the department would be taking any follow-up action against the organisers.

Hong Kong's showpiece billion-dollar, 40,000 capacity stadium in Causeway Bay has been hamstrung by strict noise pollution regulations imposed by the department since it opened in 1994.

Except for Rugby Sevens weekends, it is rarely filled. It has staged only a handful of concerts and seen a string of cancellations - most notably by Michael Jackson and Elton John - because of attempts to impose noise restrictions.

The last time the stadium staged an international rock concert was in March 1994 when British band Depeche Mode played in front of 13,525 fans. Before that, Peter Gabriel and Jean-Michel Jarre appeared there.

A small but vocal number of noise complaints were filed in the wake of these concerts, leading officials to suggest that concert-goers wear gloves to muffle the sound of clapping, and that patrons use headphones to listen to the music.