Hong Kong’s first adult-only carnival may have brought in the crowds, but some are objecting to the hosting of a sex-themed show in the city’s prime events location.
Hong Kong's harborfront sees its first — and maybe last — sexpo
The event, 18+ Central, took place inside two giant tents in the Central Harbourfront Events Space, which sits between Hong Kong’s central business district and the city’s legendary Victoria Harbour.
The 385,000-square-foot open-air space has previously hosted the Formula E electric car race, concerts, music festivals and carnivals.
On the lineup for the event? A host of erotica including male strippers, pole dancers, female Japanese porn stars, and an artist who paints with his penis.
But city officials received around 70 complaints about the carnival, and the response from two “shocked” lawmakers and a family concern group led by the father of famed Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung have put the event’s future in doubt.
Prompted by the complaints and fears over the impact the event could have on public morals and the city’s image, Hong Kong’s Development Bureau, which oversees the event space, says it will consider tightening the rules surrounding what type of event can held there.
Vertical Expo Services (VES), which organized the event and marketed it to Hong Kong’s “women and young couples,” said that around 13,000 passed through the gates during the four-day event, 80% of whom were women or couples.
VES also organizes the Asia Adult Expo, a product-oriented trade fair which takes place in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Kenny Lo, chief executive of VES, said the company had obtained an entertainment license for 18+ Central and was in compliance with the city’s Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, which regulates material such as pornography.
“The lack of such an event in the past simply showed Hong Kong was very backward, compared to major cities in mainland China and overseas,” Lo said.
Sleaze by the seas
But others thought the event was bringing sleaze to the city. Lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee suggested the Development Bureau should ban similar future events at the site.
“We don’t really want any sleazy … activity to take place in the most prestigious and beautiful parts of our city, which is the harborfront,” Ip said.
While questioning whether the show was compatible with public morals and Hong Kong’s image as a “sophisticated and clean city,” Ip said she was not entirely against the concept, but felt that Mong Kok – an area home to a red-light district – might have been a more appropriate setting.
“It might be good for business and tourism for Hong Kong to host some adult shows, [but] the harbourfront is adjacent to Hong Kong’s prime business district, and government and legislative headquarters,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the Development Bureau said that in light of the “mixed views” of the recent show, the bureau would look at possibly refining of the existing tenancy arrangement with Central Venue Management (CVM), the firm which runs the Central Harbourfront Event Space.
The negative public response came as the anti-gay rights Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group launched a campaign last week to urge residents to make complaints to those in charge.
Roger Wong Wai-ming, who leads the group and whose son is noted democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung, said that hosting an adult show at the venue set a “bad precedent.”
In response, CVM managing director Maureen Earls said it is her company’s aim to curate “as wide a range of events as possible so that all residents’ interests can be met, creating an active and vibrant harborfront.”
She added: “For those who choose not to enter the event, they may continue to enjoy the Central waterfront without any objectionable images coming to view.”
It may be a hard fight to get Hong Kong its next sexpo.