Hong Kong new year lucky draw website blacklisted by network providers, tourism board admits as it gets system up and running just ahead of event

Cannix Yau

The Hong Kong Tourism Board managed to end an embarrassing fiasco over its new year lucky draw barely an hour before the event on Wednesday night, finally restoring a crashed website and allowing participants to check their draw numbers online.

The board, which earlier admitted its website had been blacklisted by network providers, said it had resolved the problems but was still investigating what had gone wrong with the system.

The New Year’s Eve debacle unfolded just minutes after the event was launched at 6pm on Tuesday, with the website crashing and participants complaining they could not get verification codes via email, a step required to enter the HK$4 million draw.

The board later streamlined the process by skipping the requirement and postponing the draw to Wednesday night.

Dane Cheng apologised for the lucky draw debacle. Photo: Handout

Dane Cheng, the board’s executive director, apologised to those who were left disappointed and frustrated, but added the website had not experienced any overload during its trial run.

“I apologise to those who participated in this lucky draw in Hong Kong. We had been monitoring the system and we’d seen the verification codes had been issued,” he told a radio programme on Wednesday morning.

“But it ended up that many people failed to receive them. Is there something wrong with their emails? We’re still investigating.”

But the board then issued a statement in the afternoon, revealing that individual network providers had blacklisted the lucky draw website.

“The website has been blocked by some domains for an unknown reason. We’re now contacting the providers to get it released from the blacklist. It may take some time for the users to check their lucky draw numbers,” a spokeswoman said.

New year lucky draw crashes just minutes after registration opens

However, she said the draw would still go ahead at 8pm and the results would be announced at 10pm on its website even though some participants might not be able to check their numbers.

“The winners will be notified via email at a later time. Participants do not have to worry about failing to check their numbers,” she said.

Shortly before 7pm, the board said it had fixed the breakdown and the draw website was working normally for participants to check their numbers.

In its earlier statement, the board said its system had successfully assigned a number to each of the 1.63 million participants who signed up on Tuesday night.

The draw was organised as the annual fireworks display was cancelled for more muted celebrations. Photo: Martin Chan

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing urged the board to learn from the mistake and to continue to host big lucky draws with more expensive prizes for coming festivals such as the Lunar New Year.

“The lucky draw idea is good for spicing up the festive atmosphere particularly when the city has been gripped by months of political turmoil,” he said. “The overwhelming response of participants shows the draw has attracted a lot of people. It’s a pity the technical problems disappointed many people.”

Yiu said the fiasco showed the system’s capabilities had not been sufficiently tested and urged the board to make it up to the public.

“The board should ensure its system is reliable and free of errors. It should conduct more lucky draws with more attractive prizes as compensation to the public for this bad experience,” he said.

Tourism Board to replace New Year’s Eve fireworks with HK$4 million lucky draw

Francis Fong Po-kiu, president of the Information Technology Federation, called it a waste of public money and time for those who eagerly joined the lucky draw. He said the board should have simplified procedures including skipping the issuance of verification codes.

“The website issued a huge amount of emails in a short time. It would easily be mistaken as sending out spam emails so it was blacklisted by many providers such as Google,” he said.

“The lucky draw was supposed to lift the festive mood of people. But the fallout shows the Tourism Board’s inexperience in running the system, which left many people frustrated. It should have simplified the lucky draw procedures to make it enjoyable to the public.”

Open to locals and tourists alike, the draw featuring more than HK$4 million (US$513,000) in prizes was arranged after the city’s traditional fireworks display was cancelled because of safety fears prompted by the months-long social unrest.

The first prize is round-trip plane tickets for four from Cathay Pacific, available to 10 lucky winners.

Other prizes include supermarket vouchers, iPhones, luxury hotel and spa stays and tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park.

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