Hong Kong independent music venue Hidden Agenda was raided on Sunday night, leading to the arrests of a reported seven people – including British and American performers and venue founder Hui Chung-wo.
Concert-goers live-streaming the incident said that Immigration Department officials raided the venue after the concert was over under the suspicion that overseas performers did not possess work visas. They demanded to conduct an investigation on the premises.
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Police later received a report of fighting. Officers with riot shields and police dogs responded.
The evening’s concert at the Kwun Tong industrial building venue featured British band This Town Needs Guns and US act Mylets, as well as Hong Kong group Emptybottles.
Hidden Agenda claimed that seven arrests were made: Hui, another venue staffer, a member of the audience, all three members UK outfit This Town Needs Guns, and the sole member of Mylets – an American.
Police confirmed that Hui and another staffer had been charged with obstructing a police officer, and a third staff member was charged with common assault.
Obstructing a police officer carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment, while common assault carries a maximum one-year jail term, according to the Offences Against the Person Ordinance.
Live-streaming videos showed Hidden Agenda founder Hui dragged out from a crowd of people by several police officers. He later sat down on the floor, demanding to have his injuries examined – but was then taken away in a police van.
A police spokesperson told HKFP that they were called to the scene at 11:49pm to attend to a case of fighting involving over 10 people.
The spokesperson said that two people were injured, and that there were still some 30 to 40 people at the scene as of 1:00am. “Police have the situation under control,” she said.
Pro-democracy legislator Jeremy Tam also arrived on the scene to understand the incident.
The British performers were taken away on Immigration Department buses, videos showed. Tam said in a Facebook post at 3:15am that they would be released on recognisance, and would record their statements on Monday.
Hidden Agenda wrote on Facebook on Sunday night that immigration officers had accused it of hiring “illegal immigrants” to perform, because certain overseas performers had visa issues.
Concert-goers added that two officers purchased tickets and attended the concert in order to collect evidence that the bands had been hired.
Under the Immigration Ordinance, breaching conditions of stay in Hong Kong carries a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and two years’ imprisonment. An employer who unlawfully employs an immigrant faces a maximum fine of HK$350,000 and three years’ imprisonment.
Similarly in March, a Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) official purchased a ticket to a concert to collect evidence that Hidden Agenda held performances without a place of public entertainment licence. That raid proceeded without arrests.
The venue opened at its current Kwun Tong location – its fourth venue – in December, following a HK$500,000 public fundraiser. It returned its previous location to its landlord after receiving multiple warnings from the Lands Department, claiming that it had violated the terms of its land lease as an industrial premises.
The venue operates officially as a takeaway food stall, since the FEHD granted it a food factory licence – but not a place of public entertainment licence.
HKFP has contacted the Immigration Department for comment.
Correction 11:15am: A previous version of this report erroneously suggested that Mylets was a British, as opposed to an American, artist.