Hundreds of thousands of revellers in Hong Kong began the new year with the thunderous roar of HK$14 million (US$1.8 million) worth of fireworks going off above Victoria Harbour at the stroke of midnight.
At least 340,000 people gathered on either side of the famed harbour to watch a 10-minute synchronised “pyromusical” of fireworks, pyrotechnics, lights and music, while countdown celebrations were held on the streets and in malls across commercial and tourist haunts such as Causeway Bay, Lan Kwai Fong and Tsim Sha Tsui.
In packed Lan Kwai Fong, pubs and clubs were filled with party-goers from across the world, with loud music, laughter and the sound of snapping of camera shutters floating in the air.
As early as Monday afternoon, tourists and locals alike had started to gather in the popular nightlife spot. By 7pm, thousands filled the streets with 400 police officers on duty in the area to keep order.
Across the harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui, the cold weather had little effect on the party atmosphere with spectators wrapped up warmly in several layers of clothing, scarves and hats.
At the waterfront, revellers watched the fireworks in awe. Some shouted “amazing” and “beautiful” as they held their smartphones up to capture the moment.
Joyous people kissed and hugged each other, sending their best wishes to one another as they rang in the new year.
Revellers were in the mood to celebrate – not just for a new year, but the close of an old one, too.
Gary Yeung Tsz-hin, a 31-year-old computer engineer taking in the display in Tsim Sha Tsui, said 2018 was a terrible year for Hong Kong as he thought the city was being led by an increasingly “unsatisfactory” government.
“I oppose the whole idea of the east Lantau metropolis, but the government refused to hear our voices and … our opposition,” he said of the controversial proposal to reclaim 1,700 hectares in the island’s eastern waters for an economic and residential hub.
An endorsement of the plan by the government-appointed land supply task force on Monday after a five-month public consultation, added salt to the wound.
Retiree Victor Wong, 60, was enjoying the festivities in Lan Kwai Fong with his wife. He said 2018 was a “bleak year for the rule of law in Hong Kong”.
He added: “I don’t believe [Hong Kong’s mini-constitution] the Basic Law allows for the disqualification of political candidates … not just legislators, but also village chiefs. I hope the legal environment will improve in 2019, with particular attention paid towards the ongoing UGL scandal.”