Hidden Agenda has been rated as one of the best live music venues in Hong Kong by CNNGo. The indie music space has been in the industrial neighborhood of Kwun Tong for many years, as the factory district is planned to be a hub for local cultural and creative activities.
However, contradictory to the government's policy to promote cultural and creative industries, since 2010, some government departments have kept harassing performance venues and live concerts, as autonomous creative space in Hong Kong is unprotected by existing law. In the past two years, Hidden Agenda has been harassed by the police at least twice, before and during their music shows.
The latest police harassment happened during the weekend of March 18, 2012, when two overseas indie bands, Israeli “Art Rock” Eatliz and Turtle Giant from Macau [zh], were about to perform in the venue.
Quncy Lau posted more than 30 photos showing the police officers “carrying out their duty” on Facebook:
Quncy Lau explained [zh] the situation in the comment thread:
Hidden Agenda. Mar 18.
They intentionally picked the time when the show is about to start to check the fire alarm system. Two dozen police officers accompanied one fireman to carry out the duty.
Hidden Agenda has been forced to relocate twice because of the lack of legal protection on their creative activities. Wong Chun Kok explained the background [zh] at inmediahk.net:
Back in January 2010, under the stimulation of government's policy on revitalizing the industrial buildings, the warehouse where Hidden Agenda was founded was bought up by a developer and we were forced to leave. Before we left, we organized a series of music concerts under the title “About to be Blocked” and more than 20 local indie and street performance groups joined us. Two years later, the old venue was still empty…
In the past two years, we gained recognition from society and have been rated as the best music performance venue in Hong Kong. Even the France Culture Association and the government's Leisure and Cultural Services Department have started renting our venue despite the fact that we do not have any license that authorizes us to run the space. According to existing regulations, all music performance, art exhibitions and theatrical performances in factory buildings are considered illegal. We have tried contacting the government to deal with the problem actively, but the Land Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and even the Building Department keep on harassing us.
The second relocation happened in September 2011, this time under the pressure of the government's Land Department. Before they left, they organized another series of indie music concerts under the theme “East Kowloon Industrial Space” [zh] to ally with other artists in the industrial district. Below is a video recording one of their show:
Leung Lai Yin, an indie musician and a fan of Hidden agenda got fed up [zh] with police harassment:
Hidden Agenda搬到新竇 今晚警察又再來騷擾
Hidden Agenda has moved to a new location now, the police come to harass again.
If we really think Hong Kong needs indie music live venues like Hidden Agenda
Or more space for creative activities
As an audience, apart from supporting HA by paying the ticket prices to shoulder the expensive rent,
Don't we have to get organized and defend them?
The media has a lot of reports on this, but that doesn't stop the harassment.
Let's figure out how to take action
Society has to give feedback to our voices and demands
Art must be returned to the people.
Indeed, Hidden Agenda is not the only victim of the policy contradiction. Back in September 2011, another indie music performance in a more remote industrial district in North West Kowloon was subject to a crackdown by police officers.
Wong Chun Kok described the situation [zh] at inmediahk.net:
9月3日，朋友於寂靜無人的葵涌工廠區，挑了一天台位置舉辦音樂會。此舉靈感來自美國樂隊Jefferson Airplane於1968年的天台音樂會，也就是英國Beatles傳奇性天台音樂會的前一年。最大分別，就是Jefferson Airplane的音樂會是在紐約曼克頓市中心，Beatles那一次是在利物浦鬧市，從大白天開始。但是，我們都已習慣深夜走到沒人逗留的工業區玩音樂。
On 3 September, my friends picked up a remote spot in Kwai Chung Industrial District for a rooftop music concert. They got the inspiration from the American band Jefferson Airplane's 1968 roof top performance, a year before the Beatles’ rooftop performance. The biggest difference was that Jefferson Airplane's concert was in the center of Manhattan, the Beatles’ was in the center of Liverpool and they started in broad daylight. But we are used to hearing our music in remote industrial districts at night.
Because most Hong Kong people do not understand music.
My experience has told me that no matter how remote your concert spot, the police will stop a music concert by force whenever they received complaints about the noise. Even though more than 1,000 or 10,000 people are enjoying the music, one complaint would ruin the whole thing. And you have to obey whatever the police say… This time, in order to protect the concert, the audience formed a human shield, then the police brought their anti-riot shields. Maybe it was too dark and they mistook the guitars for some huge swords. Then the police officers arrested the audience and locked them up on the rooftop. Some of my friends were yelling: “we are just playing music, do you have to do this?” The police officers only returned angry stares.