The Hong Kong government has banned several Lunar New Year fairs hosted by pro-democracy district councillors.

The government has announced a ban on dry goods, including political satire items, at Lunar New Year fairs citing public safety concerns. Several district groups had tried to host their own fairs ahead of new year’s day next Saturday.

Some members of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong party, who lost the November election, have accused pro-democracy councillors of “serving their political stance” by using their powers to host and sponsor new year fairs.

Whampoa Lunar New Year fair
A poster for the Whampoa Lunar New Year fair; map for its new location. Photo: Facebook/Whampaper.

Whampoa pro-democracy district councillors Kwan Ka-lun and Kwong Po-yin had planned a fair in the area starting on Saturday. They applied to host it at an empty space near the Hung Hom Ferry Pier.

But they said that, after negotiating with the Home Affairs Department, Transport Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and other relevant departments, they failed to obtain a required “temporary places of public entertainment licence.”

They said the proposed fair would only last until 9pm, and they had planned to hire security guards, arrange first aid stations and buy insurance in order to allow the fair to take place.

demosisto chinese lunar new year fair
Satirical tote bags at a fair last year. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“[I]t shows that the government is intentionally stripping residents of the opportunity to share joy with the community,” they said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

On Friday, Kwan and Kwong said that some of those who planned to run stalls at the fair decided to move the event to the nearby Nine Seafood Place, a seafood market in a shopping mall. The fair will be held between January 18 and 24, from 11:30am to 9pm daily.

【葵涌和你宵】已被取消,大家仍可以支持檔主嫁~! 事件傳送門:…

Posted by 梁錦威團隊 on Thursday, 16 January 2020

Other districts 

In the Kwai Tsing area, district councillor Leung Kam-wai applied to use a space for a Lunar New Year fair and the plan was approved by the Housing Department. But the approval was later retracted on Wednesday after the department claimed that the fair had “commercial elements,” according to Leung.

Leung said he was forced to cancel the event after negotiating with the department over the past few days, and did not have time to secure other locations. He apologised to residents, people who applied to run stalls, and his supporters.

“The road ahead will be difficult but we hope to use different means to make our community and Hong Kong better,” he said on Facebook on Friday.

Centre Street fair
Centre Street fair. Photo: Facebook/Cheung Kai-yin.

Central and Western district councillor Cheung Kai-yin also said the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department had been delaying its decision over whether to approve the licence application for a fair this Saturday and Sunday, forcing her to cancel the event. She said she would still host street stands to “have fun with residents.”

She said the slope on Centre Street had been used for events during new year and mid-autumn festival and the government had never rejected applications in the past. Usually, a licence would be approved at least a week beforehand.

“We have been answering all questions from the relevant departments. We are disappointed that the relevant department refused to approve the licence for this event,” she said.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.