5/5 © Reuters. Customers buy decorations ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Hong Kong 2/5
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year fairs, typically an opportunity to sell creative merchandise that criticizes the government along with food and holiday decorations, are subdued this year amid coronavirus restrictions and widespread national security law. Last year in January, the fairs sold a variety of items bearing pro-democracy slogans popularized by mass demonstrations in 2019, from tote bags and T-shirts to coasters and temporary tattoos. But the protests evaporated when the coronavirus pandemic prevented large gatherings. Then China imposed a comprehensive national security law in June, and Hong Kong authorities began arresting opposition politicians and activists. In the early afternoon of Thursday, only a few dozen people bought flowers at Victoria Park in the city’s dense Causeway Bay neighborhood and across the harbor in Mong Kok, two of the most common areas for mass demonstrations in last. There were crowd controls and temperature controls were mandatory. “Next year I hope everything is better,” said Peter Luk, 63, a retiree shopping in Victoria Park. “We should have all kinds of things: political merchandise, things to eat, toys and flowers, everything.” But legal professional Clare Zhou, 26, said she enjoyed the reduced experience. “It‘s nice, it‘s very peaceful,” Zhou said. “It is the spring festival, nobody wants any conflict and nothing political.” Hong Kong plans to ease some of its coronavirus restrictions from February 18, reopen sports and entertainment facilities, and extend meal hours until 10 p.m. from 6 p.m. today. Its vaccination campaign is expected to begin late. of month. The city of 7.5 million people has recorded around 10,700 infections and 188 deaths since January last year.