Hong Kong government prohibits all dry goods – notably politically themed products – from Lunar New Year fairs in bid for public order
- Food and Environmental Hygiene Department says only flowers and food to be allowed at citywide fairs
- Pro-government lawmakers says, ‘We blame those who have made society so unstable’
Politically themed products, as well as lucky windmills and balloons, are among the festive items that will not be available at Lunar New Year fairs under a new government measure meant to maintain public order amid Hong Kong’s ongoing protest crisis.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced on Thursday that only flowers and food would be allowed at the 15 government-run fairs and festivals around Hong Kong between January 19 to January 25.
“No dry goods stalls will be provided at the venues,” the department said.
“The fairs in the past have been crowded with people, including children and the elderly. In view of the current social situation, the government – as the venue manager and event organiser – has the responsibility to ensure the safety of the stall owners and [visitors],” a department spokesman said.
“To safeguard public safety and public order, and to implement crowd control measures more effectively, the [department] will enlarge the sizes of the [stalls] to facilitate the sale of flowers. Public access will also be widened to alleviate crowding.”
The spokesman continued: “Since the total number of stalls has been reduced, only wet goods stalls for selling flowers will be provided. If circumstances at the venues permit, fast food stalls will also be provided.”
The department, citing Hong Kong’s economic downturn, said the opening prices for 2020 fair stalls would be half the price of last year. According the to department, opening prices will range from HK$320 to HK$5,440 (US$695) for wet goods stalls and HK$3,810 to HK$87,430 for fast food stalls.
The 2020 fairs will be permitted to have 1,284 wet goods stalls and 18 fast food stalls, 731 fewer stalls than in 2019.
The annual fairs, which include a bidding process for the chance to run a stall, are an occasion for political groups to raise funds. The fairs are also an opportunity for young people and students to test their business skills.
“Without all the satirical items, it might save face for Carrie Lam who will undoubtedly be a target of ridicule,” said Lee, referring to the city’s chief executive.
“But if the government is so afraid of people getting together, why don’t they just cancel all the fairs?”
Lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, whose Civic Party has also maintained a stall at the Victoria Park fair, called the new measure “ridiculous”.
“It is a reflection of how weak the government is,” Yeung said. “We are talking about a few months away and it seems the government has no confidence that it can calm the political turmoil by then. Instead of finding answers, they simply shut down everything.”
“Bidding a stall and running it in the Lunar New Year fair is the biggest event of the year for us,” she said. “It provides a good opportunity for us to put our knowledge to use by running a real business in a real-world setting. That is not an experience that can easily be gained elsewhere.”
Luk Chung-hung, a lawmaker with the pro-government Federation of Trade Unions, said the measure was the result of protesters’ actions.
“The festive atmosphere might be affected a bit,” Luk said. “But I think people will appreciate the safety concerns. We don’t blame the government, we blame those who have made society so unstable.”
Applicants in the food and beverage sector, with a physical location, proper business registration and licences and less than 50 staff, are eligible.
The process is the first phase of the foundation’s $1 billion Crunch Time Instant Relief Fund project meant to help the small and medium-sized businesses ride out the city’s economic downturn.
“The foundation aspires to the principle of ‘trust more, stress less’,” the foundation said in a statement.
Applications will be reviewed expeditiously and distribution fast-tracked, according to the foundation.
“We believe in the spirit of mutual trust and help among Hong Kong citizens,” the statement continued. “To comply with relevant regulations, a panel formed of professionals will support the reviewing process. Fraud or misuse of personal information have legal consequences.”
Applications will be accepted until 5pm on November 17, with funding available as soon as November 26. Each successful applicant will be offered funding of $60,000.