Global charity Save the Children has cancelled a gala fundraising dinner due to be held in Hong Kong on Saturday because of “concerns over the safety and well-being” of its guests and child performers.
It came a day after the Hong Kong Jockey Club took the unprecedented step of calling off a race meeting at Happy Valley, citing safety fears for its staff, customers and horses.
Save the Children’s last-minute announcement on Thursday left those on the guest list in the lurch, including Michael Pillsbury, a senior fellow with the Washington-based Hudson Institute and adviser to US President Donald Trump.
The charity had planned to host its annual fundraising dinner, marking its 100th anniversary, at the Rosewood Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.
A spokeswoman for Save the Children said the event was cancelled because “we are concerned about the safety and well-being of the guests”. She added that 100 children had been invited to perform at the gala dinner, and the charity was worried that their safety could not be guaranteed.
Its management decided to call off the event during a board meeting on Thursday morning. The spokeswoman said no threat or warning had been received, but the decision was made “in light of the recent protests in Hong Kong”.
At present, there are no protests known to be planned for the Tsim Sha Tsui area on Saturday.
Earlier, a source familiar with the situation told the South China Morning Post that the organisation was divided over the decision to invite Pillsbury to the event. Some feared that it could be seen as collusion with American “black hands” as the city entered its 16th straight week of anti-government protests.
Pillsbury, whom Trump has described as “the leading authority on China”, is in Hong Kong this week for a conference organised by the American Chamber of Commerce. He was invited to the dinner by one of the charity’s directors, and was expected to attend with his wife.
The source said Cathy Tsui Chi-kei – the first Asian patron of Save the Children – had raised concerns about inviting Pillsbury to the event. Tsui is the wife of property tycoon Martin Lee Ka-shing, the co-chairman of Henderson Land Development.
In response to a question about the controversy, the Save the Children spokeswoman said they “had no right to disinvite anyone” from the fundraising dinner. She did not say whether concerns over Pillsbury attending had contributed to the decision to cancel the event.
Henderson Land Development did not respond to a request for comment.
Hong Kong was widely considered to be one of the safest places in the world, with extremely low crime rates. But protests that began in early June have plunged the city into its worst political crisis since its return to China in 1997.
They were sparked by an extradition bill that is to be formally withdrawn and would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China, where critics say there is no guarantee of a fair trial.
Beijing has accused Western countries of aiding and abetting the Hong Kong protests, especially the United States, where several high-profile congressional leaders are pushing for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to be passed – legislation that could strip the city of its special trade status.
The bill is currently under review in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In the latest development, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung and singer Denise Ho Wan-sze on Thursday, to show her support for the bill.
Pelosi told reporters she would bring the act to a vote “as soon as possible”, prompting a furious reaction from Beijing.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated that Hong Kong affairs were an internal matter for China and there should be “no interference from foreign forces”.
A commentary on state broadcaster CCTV also blasted the move as “brazen interference in Hong Kong affairs and China’s domestic politics”, accusing some US politicians of having “ominous intentions … to incite a colour revolution in Hong Kong and meddle in China”.