Hong Kong entertainers call for financial compensation in wake of latest two-week work ban following COVID-19 restrictions
Hong Kong – 7 January 2022 – Hong Kong entertainers including musicians, dancers, actors and others in the performing arts sector may be the worst hit by new government COVID-19 restrictions, which will see all entertainment venues forced to close for two weeks and all live entertainment banned from Friday, 7 January.
While bodies representing bars, clubs, restaurants and gyms have been quick to demand government support following Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 5 January announcement, already struggling freelance artists and supporting crews in the performing arts and arts education sector stand to suffer the most from cancelled work and lost opportunities amid continuing uncertainty.
The arts and culture industries have been battered in the past two years, during which, for 16 months, no live performances were allowed. Live shows resumed in stages from June 2021 onwards, including music, theatre, dance, drama, plays, concerts and more.
Hong Kong’s creative industry has followed all government guidelines including getting fully vaccinated, wearing masks during performances, placing screens to separate performers from audiences and adhering to recommended social distancing measures.
Previous government support schemes compensated only some losses resulting from limited types of cancelled performances. That approach is inadequate as it doesn’t take into account:
(1) The diversity of the sector, which includes live performances at public and private venues, festivals, conventions and seminars, theme parks, hotels, weddings and banquets, bars and clubs and education and community outreach work;
(2) The fixed nature of the costs many creative companies face (e.g., loss of rehearsal income for studios and venues, additional storage space and extended storage time etc.);
(3) Ongoing losses if shutdowns are extended (as it was last year), and;
(4) Lost opportunities resulting from projects not coming to fruition (companies have had to cut staff as part of cost-cutting measures) with many companies closing due to inability to work and also because international performers can no longer travel easily to Hong Kong.
Chris B, a leading local music promoter and founder of Musicians Foundation, noted that: “After last year’s lengthy ban, many creative workers faced unemployment, mounting debts, and an uncertain future. Many musicians, dancers, actors and supporting crews are freelancers and received little of no support under previous government schemes. The creative sector is diverse, with artists working in various public and private venues across multiple genres, both in performance and arts education. All these people have families to support and need to be treated with dignity and respect for their contribution to Hong Kong creative industries.”
Nicole Garbellini, founder, Aurora Theatre, added: “Arts and theatre participation in childhood and youth has been linked to positive academic and social and emotional outcomes later in life. These performance bans are taking a devastating toll on this sector for our current and future generations of actors. These people play an important role in supporting Hong Kong’s wider commercial creative industries, such as film production, advertising and design. I hope the government can recognise their need for support.”
Mike Leeder, a casting director and producer said: “The majority of local film industry workers are freelancers who have suffered a significant loss of work, income and job security due to the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. While the industry complies with all government requests, these continued restrictions affect many areas of our work, including preventing us from being able to bring talent both in front and behind the camera. Although we recognise the necessity of rules, they need to be workable. It’s hard to film without knowing exactly what we can or cannot do. Even after following masked or not mask and vaccination guidelines, the rules seem too broad, are affecting all of us and in some cases causing severe financial hardship.”
Lito Castillo, chairman of Hong Kong Musicians Union, said: “Live performance is the driving force of many musicians’ work and income. This new ban is turning their lives upside-down again and they are facing loss of income, falling back into debt and wondering how they will be able to pay their rent.”
Skip Moy, production management consultant and audio engineer questioned, “What did the thousands of law-abiding audiovisual and lighting technicians, event organisers, production coordinators and related crew do to have this imposed on us? These sectors are now again losing revenue from cancelled events, lost deposits, lost work scheduled for their companies and employees. For the next two weeks it is estimated lost revenue will be in the millions. If work must be interrupted, the government should step in and set a compensation system for members within the industry.”
Professional dancer Nicole Tam, stated: “Dancers and choreographers rely on income from their performances. You see dancers in music videos, in theme parks and theatres, making audiences happy thanks to their hard work and professionalism. These positive attitudes are extremely beneficial to Hong Kong people. Please recognise their importance to our city and resume live performances.”
Kylie Chow, a wedding function coordinator and musician said: “The whole industry is terrified. During the 16-month industry wide closure from 2019 -2020, we saw many situations where industry workers were unable to pay rent, some were evicted and others literally starving. Some were forced to leave the industry altogether just to stay alive. Please don’t let this happen again.”
Simon Williams, percussionist and founder of Nine Dragons School of Samba and Zouk Hong Kong, said: “This is absolutely crushing. We were forced to halt our events when COVID-19 first emerged and have only in recent months gradually relaunched. We are prepared to work hard to earn our living, but in the current circumstances we look at the handouts that have been given to business and wonder where the support is for the arts. A fraction of that money would see us through.”
Babe Tree (鄧鎧汶), audio & lighting producer added: “We pay our taxes and abide by the laws of the HKSAR, sadly though, neither assistance or incentives are ever offered to us. I had a grip-boy who tried to take his life last year after months of suffering and being jobless. These people are also the ones that did not and do not receive any financial assistance from the government.”
Cathay Pacific, which has been implicated in the fresh wave of outbreaks, received HK$39 billion from the Hong Kong Government in summer of 2020 as support for losses due to COVID-19.
The Hong Kong creative industries are now asking for financial support for the creative sector, which has done more than any other sector to support stringent COVID-19 measures and to allow a resumption of live performances as soon as possible.
Signed by Creative Members of the Hong Kong Creative Industries
Musicians Foundation / The Underground HK
Founder – Chris B (包華絲) +852-9486 4648
Founder – Nicole Garbellini +852-9141 4544
Film Industry Sector
Casting Director Mike Leeder +852-94879142
Hong Kong Music Union
Chairman – Lito Castillo +852-9099 7259
Event Production Sector
Skip Moy +852-9027 7889
Nicole Tam (譚立辰) +852-5126 1892
Wedding Function Coordinator
Kylie Chow (周潔兒) +852-9104 8140
Nine Dragons School of Samba / Zouk Hong Kong
Founder – Simon Williams, +852-9869 5905
Audio & Lighting Sector
Babe Tree (鄧鎧汶) +852-9722 9390
香港— 2022 年 1 月 7 日 —
政府最新疫情措施下，所有娛樂場所由1 月 7 日星期五起禁止所有現場娛樂表演兩星期。本地一班創意產業工作者，包括音樂、舞蹈、影視和表演藝術的一群受到進一步的嚴重打擊。
行政長官林鄭月娥 1 月 5 日作出宣布後，本地酒吧、俱樂部、餐廳和體育館的一眾團體代表馬上要求政府作出經濟賠償。
受疫情影響兩年以來，政府在16個月內一直禁止所有現場表演。對於剛剛從2021 年 6 月起才分階段恢復工作的音樂、戲劇、舞蹈、影視娛樂藝術人員，新措施對他們本來已經非常艱難的的生計再度雪上加霜。
更諷刺的是，香港政府於2020年夏天資助了 390 億港元予被捲入新一波疫情的國泰航空公司，作為因新冠疫情造成的損失的經濟補償。