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Lunar New Year

Hong Kong restaurants take a hit after Lunar New Year fireworks display called off as mark of respect for bus crash victims

City’s chief executive stands by decision to halt display out of respect for victims of deadly bus crash

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 February, 2018, 8:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 February, 2018, 11:01pm

Some Hong Kong businesses have taken a financial hit after the Lunar New Year fireworks were called off out of respect for victims of one of the city’s deadliest traffic accidents, a lawmaker said, as Hong Kong’s leader defended her decision to halt the display.

Tourism sector legislator Yiu Si-wing said cancelling the fireworks, originally scheduled for Saturday evening, the second day of the Lunar New Year holiday, had hurt business at restaurants, shops and hotels.

“On the surface, it seems like it would not be a big deal to cancel [the fireworks], but there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that travel agencies have to take care of … there are bound to be losses,” Yiu said on a radio programme on Saturday.

Restaurants with a view of Victoria Harbour, where the fireworks are usually held, were affected the most, Yiu said.

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“According to my understanding, a third of the customers had backed out of their reservations,” he said.

On the same radio show, Travel Industry Council chairman Jason Wong Chun-tat suggested that the government could give priority to affected industries if the government was planning to organise any activities in the future.

Separately, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor defended her decision to call off the festivities, saying that it was the right thing to do.

Lam said on another radio show that some had criticised her for her “indecisiveness” in cancelling the fireworks, but she said that rescue work at the time was their priority.

If she had called off the fireworks at the beginning, it would make it seem like the government did not know how to set their priorities, she said.

Nineteen people died and 66 others were injured last Saturday when a KMB double-decker travelling from Sha Tin racecourse towards Tai Po suddenly swerved and flipped on its side while making a turn.

After the tragedy, President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang expressed their condolences and sympathies to families of the victims.

Organisers on Saturday morning had disposed of 29,000 pyrotechnic shells off of Tai A Chau, an uninhabited island south of Lantau Island.

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The fireworks could not be saved for future use as their packaging had already been opened, and had to be destroyed for public safety reasons, organisers said.

The display would have been held on the seventh day after the tragedy, when according to Chinese tradition, the spirit of a dead person returns home for a final farewell to loved ones.

Fireworks have been cancelled twice in recent years. Once in 2014 on National Day amid the pro-democracy Occupy protests and in 2013 during the first anniversary of the Lamma ferry crash in which 39 people were killed.