The annual Lunar New Year fairs opened on Sunday, with the public response not as enthusiastic as seen in the past.
The decline in the number of visitors could be attributed not only to the impact of the months-long protests but also to the fact that no dry goods are being offered this year.
The markets will be open for seven days until Jan. 25. The largest is in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, which has 216 wet-goods stalls and three fast-food stalls.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has decided to provide no dry-goods stalls, except for booths selling flowers, to protect public safety, maintain public order, and implement crowd control measures more effectively.
At the fair in Yuen Long, a flower stall operator surnamed Chan said the pedestrian flow was 40 percent lower compared to previous years, and there were fewer families coming with children, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Some of the stalls did not even open on Sunday.
Chan also said that while the government cut the bid price for stalls in half, theoverall costs only fell by 10 to 20 percent.
A stall operator in Victoria Park said pedestrian flow and sales would definitely be affected if marches were held on Hong Kong Island. Given such concerns, he said, the volume of merchandise he prepared for sale was only half of that last year.
Some of the visitors said they enjoyed shopping this year because the fairs were less crowded. But others said they did not feel the festive atmosphere at all.
Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which has put up a flower stall in Victoria Park this year, said many political parties used to set up stalls in the Lunar New Year fairs to sell dry goods for the purpose of raising funds and promoting their ideas.
He suspected that the government’s decision to cancel dry-goods stalls was aimed at suppressing political messages, adding that he expected the alliance’s stall to earn less this year.
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