The government has banned dry goods stalls in the Lunar New Year Fair across Hong Kong as an infection control measure. It’s the second year that citizens are not able to hear screams from loudspeakers while squeezing their way through packed aisles in the fair.
This year, various community-organised smaller scale Lunar New Year Fairs have scattered around the city. Close to Victoria Park, We Connect Mall in Causeway Bay hosted a week-long Lunar New Year Fair from February 5 to 11. There are more than a hundred stalls selling different types of goods, ranging from traditional Chinese snacks, crystal bracelets, printed textiles, to craft beers, tech accessories, and fragrance candles. On the second last day of the Fair, around 30 people queued in the rain to enter the two-storey Fair.
One of the sellers, student organization Student Politicism, is selling t-shirts, hoodies, and tote bags with their own crafted designs in the Fair held at We Connect Mall. Convenor Wong Yat-chin explained that participating in these fairs acts ‘as a way of supporting people who share the same beliefs as us’. He added that even if the government allowed dry goods stalls in their Lunar New Year Fair, they would still participate in these community-organised Fairs.
He agreed that the government banned dry good stalls as a way of infection control, but he thinks there is a more important reason behind it. Citing the incident that happened to Hong Kong Alliance’s flower stall in Victoria Park, in which their stall was forced to shut down because political messages in small tags were attached to flower pots, Wong added that ‘the government would prevent any products with political messages from appearing in the government-run Fairs’.
Mr Chan and Ms Leung had visited government-run Lunar New Year Fairs in the past. After seeing relevant posts on social media, they have decided to give community-run fairs a try this year. He thought that the decision to only ban dry goods was unreasonable, ‘it doesn’t matter if there are dry or wet goods, people will gather nonetheless whenever there are Lunar New Year fairs.’ He also speculated that the government had political motives in banning dry goods stalls.
“I would still consider my own needs before purchasing anything from the stalls, but there is an extra consideration now. It is also a way of showing my support towards local small businesses and creatives, especially those who share the same values as me. So I actually do see myself bringing something back home,” Ms Leung added.
The Fair at We Connect Mall was not as packed as previous fairs in Victoria Park, but the atmosphere was lively nonetheless. Wong said that there is a noticeable difference in the number of visitors. Since fairs are held in different parts of the city, people would not all be packed in one or two particular fairs. Yet, their stall has reached the break-even point, Wong said that part of the profit will be used for the operation of the organisation in their future endeavours.
Mr Chan notes that the community-run fairs have more variety in the goods the stalls sell when compared to those in government fairs, which would feature mostly festive goods. Ms Leung thinks that it is more comfortable and less noisy as it is not crowded.