Face Off: should A Symphony of Lights at Victoria Harbour be scrapped?

Compiled by Ben Pang

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week’s topic is ...

Compiled by Ben Pang |

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Tacye Hong, 19, University of Toronto

Hong Kong has been named the city with the worst light pollution. According to a study done by the University of Hong Kong, the urban sky in Tsim Sha Tsui is around 1000 times brighter than the normal level, which is appalling. With the air pollution in Hong Kong already worsening, don’t we want to at least alleviate one of our other environmental problems so that our city can go back to its glorious state? And while some might argue that it is easier said than done, light pollution is really not that difficult to control. A good start would simply be to scrap A Symphony of Lights.

A Symphony of Lights creates negative outcomes because the light pollution brought by the show has harmful affects on the environment. For example, the nocturnal activities of amphibians could be affected, thus interfering with their breeding process. Moreover, it has an adverse effect on many human bodily functions such as cell repair and hormone production. This may lead to insomnia, depression and even cancer further down the road. Furthermore, there is the obvious fact that the show is wasting a lot of energy which could be used in other more efficient ways.

Hong Kong has always prided itself on the night view of Victoria Harbour. While A Symphony of Lights has broken the Guinness World Record and may therefore serve as an extra push for tourists to visit Hong Kong, I highly doubt that it is the sole purpose of their visit. It’s a 14-minute show, after all. Keeping the view of Victoria Harbour as it is should already be enough to attract tourists.

Overall, I believe that A Symphony of Lights is a luxury that Hong Kong can live without. It does not generate that much positive impact on Hong Kong tourism and its negative effects certainly outweigh the positive ones.

Henry Lui, 18, Sha Tin College

Despite Victoria Harbour being a boring sight to most Hongkongers, who are used to seeing pictures of it plastered over every bit of tourist merchandise, it is still a scene that is adored by foreign tourists and admired by our fellow Asian competitors. Given its importance as a city symbol, it is ridiculous to suggest that the nightly laser show, which brightens up the otherwise dull scene, should be cancelled.

Contrary to criticism, the show has enjoyed a considerable amount of success over the past decade. Labelled by the Guinness World Records as the largest light show in the world, A Symphony of Lights has continually attracted visitors to the harbour, with a total of 1.45 million visitors in 2015.

According to Lawmaker Yiu Si-wing, the night-time show actually aids in extending people’s visits, as tourists who see the show won’t check out of their hotels immediately after. What this means is that visitors will spend extra money on accommodation, food, and leisure activities during the night and the following morning, which -when added together- could represent a substantial injection of cash into Hong Kong’s economy. There is no reason to cancel a successful project.

In addition to the clear economic incentives to continue with the show, the apparent “problems” the show is facing are not of high concern. In fact, Yiu blames the minor decrease in visitor numbers on the closure of the Avenue of Stars, which has made it more inconvenient for visitors to enjoy the show. Moreover, the cost of the lighting installations and electricity is covered by the buildings who take part, which means that the Tourism Board is not using much of its own funds and still has the money needed to develop other projects around Hong Kong.

A better approach would be to improve the current display to maintain high visitor numbers, and the Tourism Board is already planning to do this. There’s no doubt that scrapping the show altogether would be a poor decision.