New year lucky draw featuring HK$4 million in prizes crashes just minutes after registration opens

Jeffie Lam

A new year lucky draw featuring more than HK$4 million (US$513,000) in prizes organised by the Hong Kong authorities crashed minutes after its launch on Tuesday evening.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board, which hosted the event, said it had decided to postpone the draw to Wednesday night because of the system failure, adding the results would be announced at 10pm on its website.

Open to locals and tourists alike, the draw was arranged after the city’s traditional firework display was cancelled because of safety fears prompted by the months-long social unrest.

The online draw will take place over two rounds on the event’s website and opened for registration between 6pm and 11.30pm on New Year’s Eve.

But the server was down shortly after 6pm. Some participants had difficulty receiving the verification code via email, while others were told to “try again later” as the server was “temporarily busy”.

There will be no new year fireworks in Hong Kong this year. Photo: Felix Wong

A Tourism Board spokeswoman said about 131,000 people had successfully signed up for the lucky draw within the first hour.

“The board understands some of the participants have not yet received the verification code,” she said, appealing for patience.

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

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

Francis Fong Po-kiu, the president of the Information Technology Federation, said the server breakdown was “totally expected”.

“Of course the server will be overloaded when a huge amount of people flood the website in such a short period of time,” Fong said.

Francis Fong questioned why registration was not opened earlier. Photo: May Tse

“The problem could have easily been avoided if the organisers had opened the registration for a few days ahead of the draw for people to sign up. Millions of people would have easily registered. I do not see why they only allow people to register from 6pm on Tuesday.”

He also said the server might have thought the organisers were sending out spam emails if they sent out a large amount of verification codes within a short period of time.

He suspected some emails might either be blocked or labelled as spam.

The organisers’ domain,, appeared to be blacklisted, according to the website MXToolBox.

Protesters pour onto Hong Kong’s streets on New Year’s Eve to chant slogans

Frustrated participants left messages on the Tourism Board’s Facebook page.

“I have waited for two hours already and still not got my code … is it a fake lucky draw?” asked Iris Yung.

Another user Benni Cheng wrote: “No verification code, no response from the server. Rubbish game, rubbish government.”

Michael Gazeley, co-founder of security services provider Network Box, said the system of the website was clearly not designed to cope with millions of people wanting to join the draw.

“Setting aside the technical review which will no doubt take place at a later date to explain what had happened, it is a completely unnecessary disaster on multiple levels from a public relations standpoint,” Gazeley said. “What’s worse is that the Hong Kong government is not only trying to make up for a cancelled fireworks display, but also trying to promote information technology as a key pillar of the local economy.”

In a statement, the Tourism Board “sincerely apologised for the disappointment and inconvenience” and said it had streamlined the registration procedure by skipping the verification process.

It claimed the event website had not experienced any overload and all personal data submitted remained intact and were encrypted. Some 1.63 million people had signed up when the lucky draw closed at 11.30pm, it added.

This article New year lucky draw featuring HK$4 million in prizes crashes just minutes after registration opens first appeared on South China Morning Post

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