Beleaguered Hong Kong independent live house Hidden Agenda may close down in mid-July if the government’s crackdown against it continues, its owner has warned.

In a Thursday press conference with pro-democracy legislator Roy Kwong and district councillor Clarisse Yeung, owner Hui Chung-wo said that the venue may turn into a multi-purpose space for public rental in mid-July, after “taking down its signage.”

Hidden Agenda founder Hui Chung-wo (C) with legislator Roy Kwong (L) and district councillor Clarisse Yeung (R). Photo: Roy Kwong.

Hui says he needs the money to pay for over HK$100,000 in losses due to recent performance cancellations and an encumbrance order from the Lands Department, while monthly rent for the industrial unit exceeds HK$60,000.

Hidden Agenda moved to its fourth location late last year after being continually accused of land lease violations in industrial buildings. But in May, Hui was arrested along with four overseas musicians in a high-profile raid, which saw them charged with immigration offences.

Since then, various overseas bands have cancelled their performances at the live house.

See also: 3 foreign bands cancel gigs at live house Hidden Agenda after 2 face immigration trouble

The Democratic Party’s Kwong added that Hui has invited chief executive-elect Carrie Lam to meet with him in the first two weeks of July, and hopes she will accept the invitation.

Yeung said she is in the process of collecting data on industrial buildings in Hong Kong, which she hopes will convince the incoming leader that the arts sector has prospects for growth.

Hidden Agenda. File photo: Tom Grundy.

Land leases for factory buildings typically specify that units must be used for industrial or storage purposes only, but arts and culture groups claim that high rent prevents them from working in Hong Kong’s commercial buildings.

Empty school buildings?

Alongside several artists based in industrial buildings, Kwong and Yeung will meet the Planning Department’s chief town planner Phoebe Chan on Friday in order to discuss the possibility of renting vacated school buildings for arts and culture purposes.

In May, the department published a list of 183 vacant school buildings in Hong Kong, the majority of which are located in the New Territories. It recommended retaining more than 100 of these buildings for “government, institution or community use.”

See also: Anatomy of a Subculture Part II: ‘Factory culture’ and the survival of indie music in Hong Kong

“Hongkongers have a need for arts and culture spaces,” said Yeung. “We hope that the government will review its overall policies so that arts and culture groups can survive.”

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.