CineAsia Turns its Back on Hong Kong

Patrick Frater

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CineAsia, the long-running convention for the film exhibition and distribution sectors, has ditched Hong Kong, its home for the past decade. It was forced to cancel the 2019 edition in December, due to the political unrest in the city.

New York-based organizer, the Film Expo Group, announced on Friday by email that the 2020 edition will relocate to Bangkok, Thailand instead. It said that it will be held Dec. 7-10, 2020, but supplied no further details such as the venue for the conference and trade show components, nor which screening facilities it would use. CineAsia’s website and social media accounts have not yet been updated.

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Bangkok boasts a wealth of first-class cinemas and five-star hotels, and a smaller number of convention centers. The Thai capital last hosted CineAsia in 2004, before the event shifted to Beijing in 2005 and 2006, and then moved to Macau in 2007 and 2008.

From 2009 it settled in Hong Kong, where it used the government-owned Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai district. That allowed CineAsia to become a pan-Asian event. Hong Kong is roughly equidistant between Japan and India. And it provides simpler visa access for mainland Chinese executives than other territories.

As late as Nov. 12 last year, organizers had insisted that the 2019 edition would go ahead in Hong Kong, despite the political protests that had started in June against a proposed extradition law that would have significantly erode the firewall between the legal systems of Hong Kong and Mainland China. But after a more than a month of escalated violence, organizers announced on Nov. 15, 2019 the cancellation of both convention and market.

In a cruel twist of fate, the on-street violence had subsided by the end of November – as a result of the Nov. 24 district council elections which gave a decisive victory to the anti-government camp, and the shock of a 12-day siege at Polytechnic University. That meant that the Dec. 9-19, 25th edition could have been held normally.

Other entertainment industry events due to have been held in Hong Kong in the second half of last year were also affected by the protests. VidCon Asia, the TV convention previously known as CASBAA, shifted from Hong Kong to Singapore. Clockenflap, Hong Kong’s biggest music festival, to have been held in late November, was cancelled outright.

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