From Hong Kong's arts and cultural push to the Rugby Sevens sell-out – Here’s your week’s round-up

The month of March, aka “Art March,” felt especially busy in Hong Kong.

❓What’s going on?

The month of March, aka “Art March,” felt especially busy in Hong Kong. From Art@Harbour to Art Basel, in fact, there were 13 art and culture-related events scheduled for Art March 2024 between February 20 and April 8. And that doesn’t include the many smaller-scale events held by companies and private groups that have also been hosted in celebration of this time of year. 

But if you think that’s going to be stopping anytime soon, you just wait.

The city announced in January that it had planned over 80 art, cultural and sports “mega events” for the first half of this year, including the Rugby Sevens this weekend. To add to that busy schedule, the second half of 2024 is also looking full, with the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s mega events calendar already packed through the end of June.

🤔Was it always like this?

Hong Kong has long been seen as a financial and international hub, a sort of bridge between the East and West. But, COVID restrictions and lockdowns made a big dent in that status. The effects of the pandemic, along with a talent exodus, geopolitical tensions and a slow economic recovery, have made boosting events and tourism in the city a big priority for getting things back on track. 

And now, Hong Kong is looking set for a major comeback. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau Ying-wah has said exhibition and convention events will recover this year – and the sector might even do better than before the pandemic. For example, at least 160 exhibitions and 150 convention meetings are already scheduled for the year at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo​. So far, officials have said that events in the sector are back to around 80% of pre-pandemic levels.

🗣️What people are saying:

“The various cultural events organised by the government are good initiatives and will attract more tourists and visitors, contributing to the local economy. We see that there are numerous upcoming happenings and events scheduled for the next few months, which will be very beneficial for Hong Kong. With The Hari’s close proximity to the HKCEC and Wan Chai Harbourfront, where many of the art exhibitions and cultural events take place, we are very well positioned for our guests to take advantage thereof.”

– Edward E. Snoeks, General Manager of The Hari Hotel in Hong Kong, in a comment to TMS 

“I feel like its [arts] always been there, [but] historically, you’ve had to find it yourself online. Or do a bit of research, and they tend to be still art. Which some people might find boring.” As for now, “I do think it’s more inclusive and more fun for the casual viewer. Like the egg thing in Tamar ….Because of that … it’s nice to go out more.”

– Lucine Hoe, a 19-year-old business student and art enthusiast from the University of Hong Kong

Read the full story here.

Some of the biggest Headlines this week

🦾AI and voice: The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) has left many worried about some of the potential harm it could cause, especially when it comes to spreading misinformation. Now, AI firm OpenAI has revealed its Voice Engine technology, which can clone a person's voice with just a 15-second sample. Although the tech has been in development since 2022, the company decided not to release it publicly yet over concerns about its misuse, especially in an election year. Early testers agreed to certain conditions, like not impersonating a person without their consent and disclosing that the voices are AI-generated.​ But OpenAI did point out some of its uses, like generating scripted voiceovers and translations with native accents and restoring the voice of someone who can’t speak.

🇭🇰Monkey attack: B virus is a rare infection that can lead to severe brain damage or death if not treated immediately. This week, a 37-year-old man who was attacked by monkeys while visiting Hong Kong’s Kam Shan Country Park is in critical condition after becoming the first person in the city to contract the infection. Authorities are investigating and have warned the public not to touch or feed wild monkeys. 

🇹🇼Taiwan earthquake: A powerful 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan on Wednesday, the strongest earthquake to hit the island in 25 years. At least 10 people were killed, more than 1,000 were injured, and hundreds are still stranded as rescue operations continue amid collapsed buildings and tunnels, with damage across the island. The quake also triggered tsunami warnings in Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines, which were later lifted.

🤖Apple robotics: In February, Apple officially scrapped its long-running project to develop an electric vehicle (EV), and it’s been looking for its next “big thing” since. The company now has teams looking into personal robotics, according to sources speaking with Bloomberg. Two of the potential products reportedly include a smart robotic display and a mobile robot that can follow users around their homes.

🏳️‍🌈Hong Kong trans rights: Last year, a top court in Hong Kong ruled that the law requiring a person to complete full sex reassignment surgery in order to change the “sex entry” on their ID card was unconstitutional. This week, the government rolled out revised requirements, so transgender individuals can now apply to amend their gender without the need for full sex reassignment. But some surgical procedures are still part of the requirements, as well as a confirmation of gender dysphoria and living as the opposite sex for at least two years before the application. Some are seeing this as a step forward for trans rights in the city, while others are criticizing the rules, saying they still require invasive procedures. 

🇭🇰Hong Kong holiday travel: Hong Kong has been pushing to revive its tourism sector since COVID restrictions were lifted. But it looks like outbound travel is beating arrivals still by a big chunk. During the Easter holiday, outbound travel from Hong Kong saw a major increase, with around 1.7 million outbound trips recorded from Friday to Monday, which was about four times the number of inbound visitors.  

🏉Rugby Sevens sell-out: This year, the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament has sold out for the first time since the pandemic. All tickets for the three-day event are sold out, marking a significant return to form for one of the city's most popular sports events. This is also expected to be the last time it’s hosted at Hong Kong Stadium, as the event is planned to move to a new venue at Kai Tak Sports Park next year.

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Written and put together by Christine Dulion, Sam Sadie, Elize Lanorias and Krystal Lai.