The semi-autonomous Chinese region has seen months of political unrest and violence, which started with opposition to a controversial extradition bill and has snowballed into a wider backlash against Chinese rule and calls for greater democracy.
Millions have taken part in the demonstrations since June as banks, shopping malls and even government buildings had to shut down in response to increasingly more violent clashes between protesters and police.
Hong Kong’s busy airport has also been targeted by protesters, resulting in flight disruptions – and now the Hong Kong Open, due to be held between 5-13 October, has been pulled.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said it had postponed the event “in light of the present situation”.
“The Open is the flagship event on our annual calendar and one of the most popular international sporting events in the city, attracting thousands of local fans and overseas travellers every year,” it said in a statement released Friday.
“We strive to maintain a high standard of the event for all participants, players and fans in particular. However, after extensive discussions with our key stakeholders, we conclude that a smooth running of the tournament can be better assured at a later time.”
The WTA says the decision was made jointly with the Hong Kong Tennis Association.
The tournament is a prestigious event that has been previously won by Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki and Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic, both former world number ones.
“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our players, fans, partners and supporters,” WTA said, adding that they are looking for an alternate week to hold the event.
A Davis Cup tie at the same venue, Victoria Park Tennis Stadium in Hong Kong, will still take place this weekend as planned.
The postponement of Hong Kong Open comes just a day after London’s iconic production of Matilda the Musical had to cancel its upcoming month-long run in Hong Kong because of the ongoing protests.
Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, the Hong Kong presenter of the musical, said in a statement Thursday: “Sadly the 14 weeks of civil unrest in Hong Kong have decimated ticket sales, and more importantly we cannot guarantee the safety and well-being of our international company, which comprises a large number of young children.”
Hong Kong, a vibrant business and tourism hub, has been plunged into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, and there have been warnings its economy and reputation have taken a significant hit as a result of the ongoing protests.