Ocean Park has cancelled its annual Halloween Fest – one of its key tourist events – citing safety concerns. Meanwhile, police have warned that an unauthorised march is set to take place in the Central area on Thursday.
The theme park’s decision came amid rumours that staff members for the event were planning to go on strike alleging political censorship.
“In view of the current social situation and consideration of various comments, plus the possibility of public events at different areas of Hong Kong Island; upon thorough considerations and putting the safety of our visitors and staff as our top priority, Ocean Park has decided to cancel the Halloween Fest,” a statement issued by the park on Wednesday night said.
“The Park has already informed concerned staff on this decision. The Park would like to apologise to all affected visitors.”
An article on pro-Beijing website HKGPao claimed that Sam Wong, director and main character of the show, refused to change the contents of the performance which was apparently seen as a political satire of current affairs. The article claimed Wong was barred from the show.
A report carried by Apple Daily claimed that a show at the Halloween Fest included phrases such as “Are you ready? Hong Kong” and “Hong Kong people add oil,” which the park’s management deemed to be political slogans.
The show’s staff members wrote an anonymous letter in response and threatened to go on strike on Thursday, before the event was cancelled.
“We wish The Park could establish guidelines pointing out where the reasonable line of performances should be drawn and the sensitive words that are forbidden. Drawing the line beforehand would protect the actors from unreasonable criticisms and prevent the need of repeatedly changing the script, frustrating the actors,” they said.
“We also believe that pre-approved performances should be exempted from changes and amendments because of complaints, let alone the immediate censorship of sensitive contents.”
Residents expressed anger over the cancellation of the Halloween Fest on the park’s Facebook page.
“It is disappointing that the Halloween Fest is cancelled… The Ocean Park is no longer the theme park that Hong Kong people liked,” one commentator said
“I strongly urge Ocean Park to leave Hong Kong. It will be much safer to go to the Greater Bay Area. Please keep Hong Kong land for Hong Kong people,” another said.
Mass demonstrations and unrest in Hong Kong – first sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill – have continued for more than 21 weeks. They have evolved into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police action, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police said the force had noticed that some organisations had called on others online to take part in an unauthorised march from Victoria Park to Central on Thursday night.
“Based on past experience, such [an] unauthorised assembly will impose [a] serious threat to public order and public safety. Police have already reminded shops in the vicinity to stay tuned to the latest situation and close earlier if necessary so as to tie in with Police operations, ensuring the safety of lives and properties,” a statement said.
The Lan Kwai Fong area in Central usually attracts people wearing masks and costumes to celebrate Halloween.
Large numbers of riot police will be stopping and searching suspicious people including those wearing masks, an unnamed source told the Sing Tao Daily. The source said arrests will be made if people are confirmed to possess tools for unlawful purposes, but those who are in masks for fun will be released.
Under the newly imposed Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation, offenders could be sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of HK$25,000. The regulation allows police officers to check the identity of masked individuals and ask them to remove their masks.
Thursday night also marks two months after the August 31 incident, when riot police stormed the platform of the Prince Edward MTR station and trains using pepper spray and batons.
The MTR Corporation announced that it will close Prince Edward station from 2pm and Central station from 9pm on Thursday, after conducting a joint risk assessment with the relevant government departments.
Services on light rail, MTR buses and other lines except the Airport Express will end at 11pm.
From 9pm, Airport Express will be running between the airport and Kowloon stations only. Trains will not stop at Hong Kong, Tsing Yi and AsiaWorld-Expo stations.
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