Manchester concert attack

Fans flock to Ariana Grande’s Hong Kong concert unfazed by presence of antiterror squad

Three hours before the concert was scheduled to start, hundreds of Arianators were already crowding the AsiaWorld-Expo venue

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 2:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 11:21pm

Thousands of fans of US singer Ariana Grande fans streamed into the venue of her Hong Kong concert on Thursday night, undeterred by the large police presence outside that including an antiterrorism team.

The heightened security at the AsiaWorld-Expo came four months after a suicide bomber attacked the 24-year-old pop star’s concert in Manchester, UK, leaving 23 dead and 250 injured.

Thursday night’s measures were considered unprecedented in Hong Kong for a live music event.

Around 5pm, some three hours before the concert was scheduled to start, hundreds of Arianators – what the pop princess’ fans are affectionately as – were already crowding the venue, which was heavily guarded by at least 15 police officers, two patrol dogs, and more than 30 security staff.

How Hong Kong’s counter terror patrols have increased threefold

A police source earlier said officers would patrol outside the venue and the event organiser would look after indoor security.

A source said scores of officers, but fewer than 100, would be deployed and would include the team of antiterrorism officers. Officers from Police Tactical Unit would also be deployed.

“They will not carry submachine guns while patrolling outside the venue,” the source said.

Another source said the city’s overall terrorism threat level remained “moderate” and there was no intelligence to suggest the event would be targeted.

Concert promoter Live Nation stated on its website that checks that would be conducted and items prohibited, so many fans came earlier and prepared.

The promoter said that all audience members would be searched and required to go through a metal detector before entering the hall. Concertgoers were prohibited from bringing backpacks, bags or purses of any size, bottles or cans, cameras, video or audio recording devices, selfie sticks or long umbrellas into the venue.

Only small clear transparent plastic bags will be permitted.

Jenny Yu, 22, arrived with her sister, 19, at around 4pm.

The Shenzhen resident said while her parents were worried about their safety, she was not concerned.

“Hong Kong is quite safe and security in the city is quite good,” she said.

Yu added she was looking forward to Grande performing Focus, one of her biggest hits.

Sophie, a Caucasian living in Hong Kong, said it was her second time watching Grande in a week.

The 16-year-old fan, who is attending the Hong Kong stop with her parents and brother, was at Singapore for the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, where the pop diva performed.

Likewise, Sophie was not worried about terror threats.

“If anything were to happen, it wouldn’t be at [the concert of the same singer] and Hong Kong is very safe anyway,” she said.

In view of the checks, the young fan only carried a phone to the concert.

Earlier in the day, the pop princess posted on Instagram about being “incredibly sad”, but also “incredibly grateful” with the Hong Kong leg being the last of her “Dangerous Woman Tour”.