10,000 handed out in just 35 minutes, but most fans are left empty-handed Harbour Fest organisers yesterday handed out 10,000 free tickets for a concert tonight in just 35 minutes before the publicity stunt turned ugly, with thousands of disgruntled fans protesting at ticketing venues across the city. Many of the fans had queued for hours only to be turned away empty-handed, while ticket touts stood outside several venues hawking the free tickets for $100 each. British pop band Atomic Kitten were scheduled to perform tonight with Hong Kong's Twins and Russian duo t.A.T.u, but when the band pulled out organisers decided to go ahead with the concert as a free event. People who had already bought tickets were offered refunds and the option of keeping their seats anyway, while the rest of the tickets were given away free Each participating outlet handling ticket sales was given 400 tickets, with a maximum of four tickets to be given to each person on a first-come, first-served basis. 'Each person should get one ticket only. They are not the only people who pay taxes,' said one angry man, queuing outside the Tom Lee box office in Tsim Sha Tsui. 'The arrangement is a total mess. By the time it was my turn all the tickets were gone,' said another. More than 1,500 people were queuing outside the Tom Lee box office in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday morning before it opened at 10am, a scene mirrored across the city. Police were called in to about 18 venues to calm thousands of angry protesters - erecting metal barricades and forcing complaining people from ticketing stands - adding further controversy to the troubled festival, tipped to cost taxpayers up to $100 million. American Chamber of Commerce chairman James Thompson, who has been spearheading the extravaganza, said the crowd reaction was to be expected. 'I haven't heard any complaints myself. We tried to make it clear to everybody that we would open at 10 in the morning and each person will get four tickets maximum. 'We saw this is an opportunity to have everyone to come in and enjoy the show ... and it is amazing how quick that response was.' Mr Thompson also moved to quell reports that Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had given him an official dressing down over the problems plaguing the festival. Mr Thompson also blamed negative press coverage on the sluggish response the event received from the community at the beginning. He said more sponsors and more people were coming out to support the fest, which made him 'feel better every day'. He said the claim reported in newspapers that 'we received some kind of dressing down or some kind of words from the government ... is a lie'. Meanwhile, Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen has become the first top Hong Kong official to comment on the chaotic negotiations for the Rolling Stones concerts, saying that what the band did 'was very confusing indeed'. 'I am very unhappy about the entire process. However, the Rolling Stones [controversy] was only one [of the Harbour Fest's many troubles].' When asked if the government was wrong to put its trust in AmCham, Mr Tang said officials would have thought twice if it had more time to consult experienced concert organisers. He also did not rule out punishing Mike Rowse, who heads governmental investment-promotion arm InvestHK, but said any review would have to wait after the event was over.