Hong Kong protests: New Year’s Eve fireworks cancelled over demonstration fears

South China Morning Post

The event is set to be replaced by a much smaller show taking place from the city's rooftops

South China Morning Post |

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The traditional New Year's Eve fireworks have been cancelled this year due to protest fears.

Hong Kong’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display has been cancelled for the first time in its 10-year history after police – citing a security threat posed by anti-government protests – opposed the event.

Organisers from the Hong Kong Tourism Board revealed on Tuesday that the fireworks show for December 31 over Victoria Harbour had been called off, even as they announced a 56 per cent drop in tourist figures for November. That same day, the city’s flagship airline reported a 46 per cent plunge in passenger arrival numbers and the jobless rate in the food and beverage industry surged to a seven-year high.

A police source said senior officers had serious concerns over whether an event attracting hundreds of thousands of people could be held safely amid the often-violent social unrest that has gripped the city since June.

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The show is set to be replaced in part by pyrotechnics released from city rooftops on a much smaller scale than those launched annually from a barge in the harbour.

“Public safety is our top priority as the fireworks can attract huge crowds gathering around the harbour,” Tourism Board chairman Pang Yiu-kai said.

Six months of anti-government protests and turmoil have sent tourist numbers plummeting and led to the cancellation of major events, including the Clockenflap music festival, the Hong Kong Tennis Open and the Wine & Dine Festival.
Tourism Board executive director Dane Cheng Ting-yat said an enhanced version of the Symphony of Lights – the daily visual show beamed from both sides of Victoria Harbour – would be held instead on New Year’s Eve, and the countdown could be watched on smartphones via live streaming.
The board is still negotiating with landlords over which buildings can host the rooftop fireworks.
Last year’s fireworks and light show, sponsored by the Bank of Communications, cost HK$14 million (US$1.8 million).