Lawmaker blasts Tourism Board over HK$9M spending on virtual countdown fireworks video

The two-minute video, made using CGI (computer-generated imagery), features fireworks exploding against Victoria Harbor as billboards welcomed the new year. Screenshot: Hong Kong Tourism Board
The two-minute video, made using CGI (computer-generated imagery), features fireworks exploding against Victoria Harbor as billboards welcomed the new year. Screenshot: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Hong Kong’s Tourism Board is facing criticism over its spending of around HK$9 million (US$1.16 million) on a two-minute virtual fireworks video to mark the new year.

Lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai blasted the clip during a Panel on Economic Development meeting Monday. The sole opposition lawmaker in the Legislative Council, Cheng called the video deceptive as it may have led people outside of Hong Kong to believe that the city held its traditional fireworks display.

The annual New Year’s Eve countdown show was scrapped due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a move to prevent revelers from gathering in large groups and violating social distancing laws.

The video, made using computer-generated imagery, sought to recreate the event, which is often featured in highlight montages of New Year’s fireworks displays around the world with Hong Kong’s timezone meaning it enters the new year before cities in the west.

“The Tourism Board broadcast a two-minute online clip with fireworks and lights display, but there weren’t [actual] fireworks,” Cheng said. “If I put it more harshly, I think it was a dishonest use of computer [graphics].”

The video, which shows flashy building lights along Victoria Harbor counting down to New Year’s Day, features a colorful fireworks display and billboards on skyscrapers welcoming the year 2021.

A soundtrack of people cheering and clapping plays in the background.

Executive Director of the Tourism Board, Dane Cheng, defended the video and explained that Hong Kong’s countdown fireworks display is traditionally broadcast worldwide.

The clip, he said, helped the city achieve global exposure in the absence of the showpiece event, and it was understood that the video did not capture an actual fireworks display.

“The video was broadcast 110 times in international media outlets and on social media… it had a viewership of more than 5 million. I think this investment was extremely worth it,” Cheng said, adding that it was made by an “international production house.”

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