Happy Birthday, HarbourFest!

The year 2013 marks 10 years since that extraordinary series of entertainment concerts in Hong Kong, known as HarbourFest.

The festival was held from 17 October to 11 November and included performances by such world famous artistes as the Rolling Stones, Prince, Santana, Jose Carreras and many more.

The idea was the brainchild of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, under the dynamic leadership of its then chairman Jim Thompson. He was ably supported by Mike Denzel of the NBA and Jon Nierman of Disney. The aim was to help our city shake off the doom and gloom of the SARS epidemic which killed 299 people and had devastating though happily short term consequences for the local economy.

Jim was responding to an invitation by then Financial Secretary Antony Leung for the whole community to take part in a campaign to re-launch the economy, under the auspices of the Economic Relaunch Working Group. Lost in all the controversy that arose later is the simple fact that the campaign was overwhelmingly successful.

I won’t dwell here on my own role in HarbourFest. After all it was the theme of my best-selling book "No Minister & No, Minister", the first chapter of which is repeated elsewhere on this website.

But I can’t help observing that the Sunday Post has continued its fine tradition of mis-reporting the events of 10 years ago. The paper began then with a false story alleging excessive appearance fees were paid for the Rolling Stones, which helped to generate the negative media coverage at the time. And even in the Post of 3 November this year it claims my old department InvestHK was the organizer (no guys, that was AmCham) and that the budget spiraled out of control to $100 million (wrong again, that was from the outset the size of subsidy AmCham had sought).

Plus ca change………