Hong Kong protests cast a shadow on city’s festive decorations as businesses cut down on size and scale

Martin Choi

It’s Christmas season, and as usual the city is bathed in a neon glow, with building facades and shopping districts on both sides of Victoria Harbour decked out in festive lighting.

Sadly, six months of anti-government protests have stripped Hong Kong of its usual festive mood and affected businesses that depend on them.

One such company is Shun Sze International Development, which specialises in designing and installing lighting displays outside shopping malls and buildings that dot the city’s skyline.

“I’ve been designing festive lights for more than 30 years, and this has been the worst year [for my business],” said Terence Wong Kim-shan, founder and president of Shun Sze.

People walk past festive Christmas decorations near Harbour City shopping centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. Hong Kong’s retail and toursim sectors have been hit hard by the lingering anti-government protests. Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong has slipped into a technical recession as the city’s tourism and retail sector has been battered by six months of ongoing social unrest, sparking fears of looming job cuts.

He said that large festive lighting decorations, such as those found outside Tsim Sha Tsui Centre and Wing On Plaza in Kowloon, had been commissioned at least half a year in advance, so those were unaffected. However, some smaller businesses had reduced their budgets as the social unrest showed no signs of abating, leading to a nearly 20 per cent decline in his business this year.

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“Many of our clients decided to reduce the display and shrink the scale, as they did not want the installations to be big,” said Wong, adding street lighting displays had also been reduced.

“Shopping malls, which used to have a lot of festive lighting and decorations in the past, have also cut down on their budget.”

Orders for outdoor light installations for shopping malls in the past used to be in the region of HK$2 million (US$257,000) to HK$3 million, depending on the design and the scale, said Wong.

Similarly, florists selling Christmas trees have seen a drop in business this year.

“We’ve been open for 73 years, but the events in the city have impacted Christmas tree sales this year, especially in November,” said Ada Yeung, manager of Anglo Chinese Florist, in Central.

“Some families had decided to hold back from ordering Christmas trees, as they were not sure whether they would leave town.”

She added that as it was just as important for the Chinese to celebrate Lunar New Year, Christmas was equally important for Western expatriates and had received many last-minute Christmas tree orders from clients who decided to stay in Hong Kong.

Yeung said that smaller Christmas trees, priced at around HK$1,000, had grown in popularity this year.

“We have noticed more individuals and younger people purchasing smaller Christmas trees than in previous years,” said Yeung, adding that they had decided to offer more options at different prices ranging from HK$100 to HK$3,000.

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