COLUMN: Hong Kong venue Hidden Agenda faces eviction…again by Sum Lok Kei

hidden agenda

Legendary Hong Kong venue Hidden Agenda faces eviction…
written by Sum Lok Kei

After six years of operation and hosting over 800 shows, local independent music venue Hidden Agenda may be evicted from it’s current location in Kwun Tong soon, according to chief of staffs Steveo Hui.

Located in Winful Industrial Building on Tai Yip Street, Hidden Agenda is known to be the centre of the thriving independent music scene in East-Kowloon.

On May 30th Hui uploaded photo of a letter from the Lands Department to the unit’s landlord, which stated that Hidden Agenda had violated lands restrictions.

hidden agenda

Under the land lease for most industrial buildings in Kwun Tong, any activity outside industrial use and storage are deemed illegal, which applies to Hidden Agenda and many other tenants. Hui explained that it is the government’s well-known tactic to pressure the landlord by threatening to impose encumbrance. In effect, this will put the venue into a state of “sudden death”, as the landlord have no choice but to evacuate the unit in near future.

Although this is not the first time Hidden Agenda had dealt with eviction, it is still difficult as shows had been booked up to August at the venue. “I will make sure organisers are not affected,” said Hui, as he and his staffs had been busy making arrangements.

Returning to the issue at hand, Hui said it boils down to land use, which is dictated by land leases from the 1960s. In his opinion, such restrictions are outdated and no longer applicable to tenants in 2016, who’s needs are mostly non-industrial. Therefore under the current regulations, the only way to legally operate a music venue in industrial areas is to apply for change of land use, which Hui explained is a time consuming and troublesome process. The application will have to go through the assessment of three government bodies – the Town Planning Board, the Lands Department and subsequently the Housing Authority, which can take years to complete. “The hardest part is to obtain the landlord’s consent,” he added, as the landlord have no motivation or need for such change, adding to the already overwhelming difficulty in succeeding. As the same applies to various studios and performance spaces in Kwun Tong, Hui warned that other tenants may face similar “harassment” from the Lands Department.

Looking ahead, Hui said he will seek help from district councilors in hope to make a case with Hidden Agenda and continue hosting independent music events.

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