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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Fury over HK Sars concert 'fiasco'
Mick Jagger
The Rolling Stones were expected to headline the event
Politicians and residents in Hong Kong have attacked a Sars benefit concert season for turning into a "fiasco" after the Rolling Stones pulled out.

The band withdrew from a gig, part of the month-long HK$80m (6.2m) series, in a dispute over the contract and fee.

There has been anger at reports that foreign stars had been offered big fees from taxpayers' money while local acts were treated as "side dishes".

There are also reports of poor ticket sales for the 14 Harbourfest events.

Legislator Emily Lau made the "fiasco" attack, saying the government must justify the cost of the event.


"This is taxpayers money and it belongs to Hong Kong people," she said.

"If the money has been spent wisely then we will applaud it but we don't know that it has."

Another legislator, Fred Li, said the government's decision to underwrite the event was a "blunder".

"Organisers have set aside 3,000 seats at some of the shows for foreign visitors but the Tourism Board has admitted that it cannot attract long-haul visitors due to the short period of time," he said.

Boost morale

One resident, accountant Minnie Wu, said Harbourfest had been "a disaster from the beginning".

The series of shows from 17 October to 9 November was planned to boost morale and tourism in the territory, which was crippled when 299 people died in the Sars outbreak earlier this year.

Among the stars lined up to play are Prince, Jose Carreras, Westlife and Neil Young.

Mike Rowse, director general of InvestHK, said the Rolling Stones' withdrawal was not a "mortal wound" and their appearance was "not essential to the event being successful".

He also promised that the government would not spend more than HK$100m (7.8m) on the season.

Stones pulled from Sars concert
10 Oct 03  |  Music
'New dates' for Stones in China
04 Aug 03  |  Music
Hong Kong declared Sars-free
23 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Stones 'start up' Toronto
31 Jul 03  |  Music

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