Lan Kwai Fong edgy amid calls for mask-themed Halloween protest

October 31, 2019 16:30
Bars and restaurants in Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong's Central district will see relatively muted Halloween revelry this year amid the ongoing social unrest in the city. Photo: HKEJ

Lan Kwai Fong in Central, one of Hong Kong's most popular nightlife hotspots and home to more than 90 restaurants and bars, may not witness the usual Halloween revelry this year as there is a chance that protesters could descend on the area and face off with police.

Amid the ongoing anti-government movement, some netizens have called for a mask-featured march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to Lan Kwai Fong on Thursday night to protest Hong Kong's emergency anti-mask law, which took effect on Oct. 5.

They also want to use the march to highlight the two-month anniversary of an incident that took place at Prince Edward MTR Station, where police officers were accused of indiscriminately beating up people during a dispersal operation, causing multiple injuries, on the night of Aug. 31.

The government announced on Wednesday evening that police would implement “special traffic arrangements” at Lan Kwai Fong from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 to “facilitate the public celebrating Halloween”, with about a dozen roads in the vicinity to be affected.

A bar owner in Lan Kwai Fong estimated his income during this year’s Halloween night, usually one of the best in a year, could be down as much 40 percent compared to last year, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

As the social unrest had cost the bar a lot of business in recent months, the owner had been hoping that he could make up for some of the losses on Halloween night.

But now, such hopes have been dashed, he said, while citing worries that enhanced police patrols in Lan Kwai Fong may only make clashes more certain.

In the past, bars and restaurants in Lan Kwai Fong usually saw enticing decorations several weeks before Halloween, but that’s not the case this year. The area looked relatively desolate and devoid of lively atmosphere on the eve of the festival.

Forecasting that Lan Kwai Fong will see its businesses drop by 20 to 30 percent on Thursday night from a year earlier, Lan Kwai Fong Group chairman Allan Zeman said bars will close early if there are sudden adverse incidents during the night.

However, he believes bars will not close early just because of the police's implementation of crowd control.

Zeman hopes the police will not use tear gas against protesters and that the demonstrators will not resort to vandalism in the area.

Chin Chun-wing, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Bar and Club Association, said the group plans to provide free shuttle bus service in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui to take people to Tseung Kwan O and Tsuen Wan at midnight and at 1 am.

But the service will be canceled should there be any unforeseen situations, said the industry person, who is still optimistic about the overall Halloween-related boost to his sector.

Lan Kwai Fong Association estimated that businesses in the area could suffer 20 to 30 percent decline in Halloween night revenues.

In other news, Prince Edward MTR Station was closed at 2 pm on Thursday.

Rail operator MTR Corp also announced on Wednesday that Central Station will be closed from 9 pm on Thursday, and that services on light rail, MTR buses and other lines except the Airport Express will end at 11 pm.

Among other entities, Ocean Park announced on Wednesday that it will cancel the last show of its Halloween Fest scheduled for Thursday night.

The park cited the current unrest, and the possibility of protests being held across Hong Kong Island, for its decision, RTHK reported.

There has been talk that some crew members were angry after the park’s managers were suspected of tweaking the script of the show by taking out what they deem politically sensitive terms like "Hong Kong people, add oil", a popular chant of anti-government protesters.

The crew plans to launch a strike on Thursday in a protest against the alleged censorship, according to RTHK.

A spokesperson for the park said it will close early at 6 pm on Thursday. On-day admission ticket holders who are affected can ask for a refund. 

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