HK scraps famed event for first time as protests rage
Hong Kong's famous Lunar New Year parade has been cancelled with protests and tensions deeming it "too risky", as new tourism figures show more one and a half million visitors stayed away last month.
Figures released today by the Hong Kong Tourism Board showed there were 3.3 million visitors to the city in October, a drop of 44 per cent for the same month last year.
It is the worst monthly results since government protests began in June and is similar to a plunge level seen at the height of the SARS outbreak in 2003.
Officials says the visitor numbers are not expected to bounce back this year and uncertainty remains.
October is usually among the busiest for the city as it includes the seven-day 'golden week' national holiday that sees millions of visitors particularly from mainland China.
In light of continuing protests, the Tourism Board also announced it would cancel for the first time the city's famous January 25 Lunar parade, usually along popular tourist strips including Nathan Road and Canton Road, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting between police and protesters in recent weeks.
"It is too risky to accommodate crowds and maintain public order," the Board's executive director Dane Cheng said, adding instead a food and music festival would be held.
New Year fireworks would also be more subdued and on a smaller scale.
Council elections last week saw pro-democracy movement candidates win by a landslide, getting almost 90 per cent of seats which has renewed the push now for democratic reform that would allow locals to elect their leaders in the territory's legislative government.
They have vowed to continue to hold mass rallies and flash mob protests until their demands are met.
The Beijing - backed Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has dismissed the idea but said dialogue would restore order. Her Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau was equally optimistic.
"The government has been trying every effort to bring the society back to normal. While having a difficult time, economic fundamentals remain the same. Hong Kong remains a city where we welcome businesses.
"We're also seeing prospects of reconciliation and the calming down of things, as evidenced by the smooth and peaceful completion of the major election at the district level."