HK Alliance ‘barred from Lunar New Year fair’

HK Alliance ‘barred from Lunar New Year fair’
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The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China has accused the government of suppression after it was apparently barred from running booths at the upcoming Lunar New Year flower market at Victoria Park.

The alliance won bids for three of the 60 flower booths on offer during an auction on Tuesday, but authorities refused to accept the winning bids.

The group has had a regular presence at the fair, having set up booths there for the past 30 years and sold items carrying political messages. The alliance is best known for advocating the vindication of the pro-democracy movement on the mainland in 1989 leading up to the Tiananmen massacre.

Its vice-chairman, Richard Tsoi, quoted officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department as saying they were “instructed” to “reconsider” the bids.

He said he was the only winning bidder on Tuesday who did not sign an agreement with the department.

“It’s obviously politically motivated. We don’t know whether authorities had decided to disqualify us. We are strongly dissatisfied,” he said.

Tsoi also said he had not received any warnings about the possible violation of rules.

The alliance successfully won bids for the three stalls at HK$5,440 each.

Tsoi said he was told to attend a meeting with Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers on Wednesday.

A senior superintendent of the department, Mabel Ling, told reporters that officials would like to obtain more information from Tsoi before making a decision, without elaborating.

The department also said the fair in February will be scaled down because of Covid-19. Vendors will only be allowed to sell flowers, while the sale of food and other items will be banned.

Ling added that various fairs around the city might be suspended or cancelled if the coronavirus situation worsens.

Bidding was sluggish at the auction, with 16 of the 60 stalls remaining unsold as of 11am.