Hong Kong Protests: New Year’s Eve fireworks replaced with HK$4 million lucky draw


Open to tourists and locals, the event replaces the traditional display, cancelled due to demonstration fears

Joanne Ma |

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An enhanced version of the Symphony of Lights will take place on New Year’s Eve.

A New Year’s countdown lucky draw featuring more than HK$4 million in prizes will be held for the first time in Hong Kong this year.

Open to locals and tourists alike, the draw has been arranged after the cancellation of the city’s traditional firework display over safety fears.

Hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the online draw will take place over two rounds on the event’s website, with the grand prize of four sets of round-trip plane tickets from Cathay Pacific available to 10 lucky winners.

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The board said an enhanced version of the Symphony of Lights – the daily light and sound show over Victoria Harbour – will also be held at midnight on New Year’s Eve, with smaller-scale rooftop fireworks hosted by several buildings on the Hong Kong Island side.

A countdown show will be broadcast on ViuTV, as well as live-streamed on the board’s website and other social media platforms.

Other prizes up for grabs include supermarket vouchers, iPhones, luxury hotel and spa stays, and tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park.

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Dane Cheng Ting-yat, the board’s executive director, said they only had two to three weeks to come up with the new format for the New Year’s celebrations, following the abrupt decision to cancel the fireworks display on December 31 for the first time since 2012.

“If it was a full-scale fireworks show, it’d usually attract hundreds of thousands of people. But there are other concerns such as traffic and manpower arrangements, which would be challenging,” Cheng said.

The board expects the total cost for the enhanced Symphony of Lights show, lucky draw prizes and other technical support to amount to about HK$10 million, compared to HK$14 million for last year’s traditional fireworks display.

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Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the lucky draw and enhanced Symphony of Lights would do little to attract tourists when visitors’ confidence in Hong Kong remained low.

The fireworks usually gave the tourism industry a major boost. The event ended after midnight, which meant visitors were more likely to stay the night and book hotel rooms, Yiu said.

“I think this replacement is a creative idea and might be quite effective in calming the public. The fireworks were just a show anyway. Every year, the show just comes and goes without doing much to anyone,” said James Chew, a 16-year-old student at Logos Academy.

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James added that because of the social unrest in Hong Kong, it’s not right to do something too festive, like the fireworks. He also pointed out that fireworks could be quite harmful to the environment.

Leanne Jackson from Shatin College felt differently. “I understand the concerns behind the cancellation of the fireworks, but I think it’s completely ridiculous the board thinks a lucky draw would be able to replace such a tradition,” she said.

The 16-year-old added she’d always stayed up to watch the fireworks, and it’s a great pity that it’s not happening this year. 

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“I’ve always enjoyed seeing fireworks,” Leanne said. “While I’m sure some people would be intrigued by the lucky draw, I’m pretty sure the majority of people wouldn’t be impressed and the hostility towards the government [accumulated over the past six months of unrest] won’t go down. It probably won’t go up, but it would still be there.”

“The government is just escaping from reality,” said Candice Leung, a 17-year-old student from Pui Ching Middle School. “The firework celebration is an annual activity for Hongkongers. However, it’s quite different this year. Some protesters are planning to express their opinions during the countdown. To avoid this, the government simply made up something to substitute it.”

She said the government should not hide from the city’s social problems anymore, because holding this lucky draw wouldn’t help calm people down.