Hong Kong cancels New Year's Eve fireworks over protest concerns

A man is detained by police during a protest held by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong on Dec 18, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong has cancelled its traditional New Year's Eve fireworks show over security concerns, the latest popular event to be scrapped in the Asian financial hub amid ongoing pro-democracy protests.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) confirmed on Wednesday (Dec 18) that the fireworks show had been cancelled and would be replaced by an enhanced version of the daily light show that plays over the city's iconic harbour.

"The HKTB places high importance on public safety of all events it organises," the group said in a statement. "In view of the current situation in Hong Kong, we have decided to adopt a new format for this year's New Year Countdown event."

The group will have a light show above Victoria Harbour, with additional pyrotechnics from the rooftops of participating buildings, it said.

The Hong Kong Police Force had recommended abandoning the event over fears about holding a large-scale public event at a time when protests are still being planned, according to a police official who declined to be named. The demonstrations have turned violent on occasion in recent months.

The fireworks show is the latest in a long list of events torpedoed amid the city's ongoing political unrest, including major business conferences, races, big-ticket concerts and a major music festival.

The protests began in opposition to since-scrapped legislation that would have allowed extraditions from the city to mainland China, but have expanded into calls for greater democracy in the former British colony.

Though unprecedented unrest over the last six months has tapered recently, it has severely damaged Hong Kong's economy. The tourism and retail sectors in particular have suffered as tourist arrivals plunge, events get postponed and many local residents stay home.

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