Hong Kong’s largest democratic party has called off a fundraising dinner after two restaurants that were meant to host the event pulled out at the last minute, with one citing broken windows after the typhoon.

Lo Kin-hei
Lo Kin-hei, chairperson of the Democratic Party, at a press conference on Feb. 7, 2023. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Lo Kin-hei, the chairperson of the Democratic Party, told HKFP on Monday morning that the dinner – scheduled to take place that evening – would not go ahead.

The fundraising dinner was initially arranged at a restaurant in the Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, but the hotel said last Thursday that it had to cancel the party’s booking. It did not give a reason, Lo said.

The dinner was then moved to a restaurant called Federal Cruise Banquet Centre, located in Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. But the restaurant informed the party on Sunday that it had to undergo maintenance works due to windows broken when Super Typhoon Saola hit Hong Kong on Saturday.

“We did not try to find another venue,” Lo said. “We’re already very tired.”

The Democratic Party has struggled to find restaurants to host its events in recent years, with many refusing their reservations or backing out at the eleventh hour. In February, the party had to postpone its spring dinner after three venues cancelled on them. The last pulled out just two hours before the dinner, citing “urgent gas meter maintenance.”

The Democratic Party
The Democratic Party. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Last year, a restaurant in a Tsim Sha Tsui shopping mall that was meant to host a fundraising banquet backed out after saying there were Covid-19 clusters nearby. When asked, the restaurant told reporters it was closed for maintenance that day. Other restaurants on the same floor of the mall were operating normally, and said they did not hear of any Covid-19 cases in the vicinity, local media reported.

Lo said around 200 people were expected to attend the Monday night dinner.

HKFP has reached out to both restaurants for comment.

‘External pressure’

The last time that the Democratic Party held a large dinner event was in March 2019, before the protests and unrest that year and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lo said he believed the string of restaurant cancellations was no coincidence, and that the businesses must be facing “external pressure.”

“One after another, the same thing has happened to us,” he said. “Plus, now the economy is so bad. The restaurants probably don’t have good business at night. We’re trying to invigorate the economy here.”

“There must be some people behind the scenes giving [the restaurants] pressure,” Lo said, though he added he had no way of knowing who those people may be.

Carrie Lam Democratic Party
Carrie Lam at the Democratic Party anniversary dinner on March 20, 2018. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

The two cancellations for the Monday dinner came after state-backed newspaper Wen Wei Po published an editorial last Tuesday accusing the Democratic Party’s fundraising dinner of “likely being a platform for the party to continue covertly promoting… illegal protest-related information.”

The newspaper said that on the surface, the party was fundraising to continue operations and the upcoming District Council elections – but that in reality, the money could be related to raising legal fees for activists charged in the 47 democrats case.

Before 2019, the Democratic Party’s events were regularly attended by top officials and members of the pro-establishment. Then-chief secretary Matthew Cheung and financial chief Paul Chan were among those present at the fundraising dinner in 2019, while in 2018, then-chief executive Carrie Lam donated HK$30,000 at the event.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps


Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
tote bag support
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Hillary Leung is a journalist at Hong Kong Free Press, where she reports on local politics and social issues, and assists with editing. Since joining in late 2021, she has covered the Covid-19 pandemic, political court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial, and challenges faced by minority communities.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hillary completed her undergraduate degree in journalism and sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She worked at TIME Magazine in 2019, where she wrote about Asia and overnight US news before turning her focus to the protests that began that summer. At Coconuts Hong Kong, she covered general news and wrote features, including about a Black Lives Matter march that drew controversy amid the local pro-democracy movement and two sisters who were born to a domestic worker and lived undocumented for 30 years in Hong Kong.