A student activist group which organised a protest-themed charity sale has said the event will continue despite warnings from government officials that it may have been operating without a license for places of public entertainment.

FEHD officials during their visit at Parallel Space. Photo: Local Youth Will via Facebook.

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) officers visited Parallel Space, a private art gallery in Shum Shui Po on Thursday afternoon, where newly-formed student activist group Local Youth Will has been hosting a charity sale to commemorate the Hong Kong’s anti-China extradition bill protests that erupted in June 2019.

Lo Tsz-Wai, the activist group’s convener and a former member of the now-disbanded Chinese University of Hong Kong student union committee, said the officials’ visit on Thursday was “expected” but the group had yet to receive any penalty tickets or formal notice of prosecution from the department.

“We may be forced to close if they make us shut down or come again with the police, but we will not give in so soon,” Lo told HKFP. “It’s obvious the regime is using administrative means to oppress us.”

Risk of prosecution

Officials took photographs of exhibits in the gallery and statements from the student organisers, warning that they may be prosecuted, the group said on their Facebook page.

“It’s clear the regime can no longer tolerate such behaviour,” Lo said.

Entitled “730 days after June 9”, the event was publicised as a private function and participants were asked to register through an online form before attending. Organisers invited participants to bring along with them protest-related objects they own for barter, and to share their feelings in writing during the visit.

Lo said the group anticipated that the government may take action against them using the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance, which was why they kept the event private.

The Ordinance requires events like “concert, stage performance, musical, dramatic or theatrical entertainment, lecture or story-telling, exhibition” hosted at any place where the general public is admitted to be licensed. Any person who operates a place of public entertainment without such licence can face a maximum fine of HK$25,000 and six months in jail.

Lo told Stand News during an interview this week that the event was not an exhibition, as every item was available for sale for HK$2 million, plus HK$1. The price tag is likely a reference to the organiser turnout estimate of a march on June 17, 2019 – the “plus one” referred to a man who died at a protest site the night before.

Photo: Local Youth Will via Facebook.

An FEHD spokesperson said in response to HKFP’s enquiry that the department “received complaints that a place of public entertainment is being operated without the requisite licence at a unit in a composite building in Sham Shui Po,” and initiated enforcement action on Thursday following an investigation.

Hong Kong’s June 4th Museum was shut down in early June following a similar visit by FEHD officials, who alleged that the museum operated without the same type of license.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.