Hong Kong gigs

Hong Kong music club Hidden Agenda confirms closure by end October amid venue woes

Opposition lawmaker says lack of government support in policy is because musicians are ‘at the bottom of the food chain’

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 October, 2017, 8:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 10:58am

A live music club in Hong Kong is set to close by the end of the month amid lack of progress in negotiations over the use of its premises in an industrial building.

Hidden Agenda in Kwun Tong, which has hosted musicians from around the world in more than 500 shows, announced on its Facebook page on Saturday that it was closing.

It cited a stalemate in discussions with the government, over policies involving the use of industrial buildings.

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The future of the indie club has been in doubt for months since the Lands Department refused to grant it a public entertainment licence.

“Because the government’s new policies still fail to bring about a new situation for users of industrial buildings, we will return the premises to the landlord on the 30th of this month,” a club spokesman said in the Facebook post.

Hidden Agenda founder Hui Chung-wo said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s policy address did not provide solutions to legalise their business. He added that since May, bands that had been invited by the club were warned by the Immigration Department against performing in Hong Kong, whether on a pro bono basis or for profit.

Watch: Hidden Agenda founder Hui Chung-wo discusses the future in 2016

Opposition lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho said one of Lam’s proposals – which involves a plan to convert industrial buildings into transitional housing – would be more profitable for property owners, therefore reducing incentives for them to rent their units to musicians and artists.

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“Art and culture practitioners are often at the bottom the food chain,” Tam said. “They have the least bargaining power.

“The government has definitely neglected them,” he added, “It’s one of the woes of Hong Kong – killing a well-established art scene.”

In May, Hidden Agenda was raided by the Immigration Department. Four visiting musicians from Britain and the United States were arrested on suspicion of breaching their conditions of stay by performing at the venue without work visas.

Watch: Hidden Agenda raided for visa infringements

The Lands Department said running a live music venue in an industrial building would be a breach of lease conditions, as the licence granted by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to the club was for a food factory and for it to officially operate as a takeaway food stall.