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Protest-related violence halts ‘Concert in the Park’

02 December 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao
The sixth of 7 bands slated  to perform managed to keep the crowd glued to their seats before concert was halted

An outbreak of violence at a protest march in Tsim Sha Tsui cut short the annual “Concert in the Park” on Sunday, Dec 1, at the Cultural Centre Piazza, by Hong Kong-based  bands.

The party mood at the pre-Christmas treat by the Hong Kong Musicians Union and the Philippine Consulate General slated to end at 7pm ended just before 4:30pm at the advice of the authorities.
But Consul General Raly Tejada said the event still turned out well. “In fact people enjoyed so much and didn’t even realize it was cut short since only the last band (7th in line) wasn’t able to play,” he said.

But, he added, “Safety first always. Lahat naman nakauwi ng maayos.”

Image may contain: 4 people, including VC Robert Quintin, people smiling, people standing
CG Tejada (right) with Consul Quintin and HKMU chair Ela Lo
Earlier, at about 3:45pm, staff from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department which co-organized the event, approached ConGen Tejada and Consul Bob Quintin and told them the show should be stopped immediately.

But it took another 45 minutes before emcee Jun Paragas announced on stage that the show was being cut short, with one band still waiting to perform. That was after steps were taken to quietly advise those watching the show to leave calmly and proceed to the nearby Star Ferry.

By then, tear gas had already been deployed down Salisbury Road not far from the venue. Police had advised organizers to tell the estimated 500 spectators to leave the area via the Star Ferry to avoid the confrontation.

Image may contain: 1 person, crowd and outdoor
Thousands gathered at the Clock Tower ,about 100 meters  from the concert venue before the protest march

Just before this, guest Bheng Woolf of AFreight decided to leave the concert on hearing about the protest, and said the Star Ferry pier was already packed with people trying to leave the area.

Paragas was about to go onstage to advise people to leave when the officers stopped him, saying this could cause the crowd to panic.
Instead, co-emcee Michael Vincent and some Consulate staff went to the piazza steps where the spectators were swaying and waving with the music and asked everyone to leave calmly.

For awhile their efforts emptied half of the venue, but when “Sound Bytes,” the event’s main attraction with their colorful costumes took over the stage, the crowd came back with LED wands in their hands.

Of the seven bands that were slated to perform in Sunday’s event, only “The Hiking Boys” failed  to go onstage and regale the crowd that included locals and westerners.
But to show appreciation for their presence, Congen Tejada went up the gallery where the 10-man band had sat among the crowd and shook the hand of each member.

The bands performed in addition to Sound Bytes were Hard Luck Kings, Lagablab, Rockin’ Chicken, HKMU Assembly Band and Bluesy Cats.

HKMU chairwoman Manuela Lo was not amused at the turn of events.

“Ang hirap pa namang kumuha ng mga tao ngayon pagkatapos ay mapuputol lang ang concert dahil may rally,” Lo said as she moved around coordinating the show.

But she said later that “Overall, it was a success, bitin nga lang.”

It was the first time that the annual entertainment provided by mostly Filipino musicians was cut short in the more than 20 years that it has been staged in Hong Kong.

With Congen Tejada at the show were Deputy Consul General Germie Usudan, Consul Leo Tito Ausan, Consul Bob Quintin, Acting Labor Attache OIC Tony Villafuerte, Assistant Labor Attache Angelica Sunga and Welfare Officer Marivic Castro Clarin.

Tens of thousands of people joined the TST protest, which began with a mass assembly at the Clock Tower, just a few steps from the Piazza. Tensions flared when protesters deviated from the approved route at about 4pm and spilled onto the streets.

After raising the blue flag warning, police fired tear gas and other projectiles onto the crowd, which included children and elderly people.

Officers said they used minimum force to stop radical protesters who had thrown smoke bombs at them.
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