Dozens of Police Tactical Unit officers wielding batons and packing shields moved in on an independent music venue in Kwun Tong after immigration officers targeted two foreign bands for allegedly performing without work permits.
Three Britons and an American from the TTNG and MYLETS indie rock bands were taken away by immigration officers at 2 am yesterday after the raid at the Hidden Agenda music venue shocked fans because of such a show of force by police.
The musicians were released on bail four hours later and told to report to the Immigration Department in the afternoon.
Police meanwhile arrested three locals, including the operator of Hidden Agenda, Steveo Hui Chung-wo, a venue staffer and a male member of the audience.
Hui and the fan were hauled off to Kwun Tong Police Station for allegedly obstructing officers while the venue staffer was arrested for assaulting a police officer.
Word from the Immigration Department last night was that the investigation was continuing, though it was understood the musicians had been released and could leave Hong Kong on their own account.
The TTNG and MYLETS bands have been on an Asian tour for two weeks and Hong Kong was their last stop.
They arrived on Sunday morning and performed that night at Hidden Agenda, with tickets costing from HK$280 to HK$320.
According to Sam Chan Lik-sum, who watched the show, at least five plainclothes immigration officers began asking for ID cards after the performance ended at 11.45 pm on Sunday.
"We soon realized the officers were looking for members of the foreign bands," Chan said.
That led to venue employees appearing to block officers from reaching the foreign musicians. It led to a stand-off between the two sides, which was broadcast live on Facebook as staff and immigration officers joined in a heated argument.
About 20 PTU officers arrived at midnight having been notified about a fight.
"They arrived with batons, shields and a dog," Chan said, adding that he did not see any fighting.
Police officers then moved in to support immigration officers who were trying to get past venue staffers.
Hidden Agenda operator Hui was seen in a head lock at one point and was taken outside.
The arrested venue staffer was taken to Union Hospital for a check after claiming to have been injured.
But the three arrested locals remained in police custody last night.
Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who arrived at the venue at 1 am to aid the foreign musicians, asked whether such a show of police force had been necessary.
He also questioned if authorities are trying to shut Hidden Agenda, which has felt pressure from various government departments since it was established at its present site in December.
It has been targeted for prosecutions for running concerts without proper licenses. And it was raided in March by the Food and Environmental Hygiene officers during a concert.
Another Civic Party lawmaker, Tanya Chan Suk-Chong, accompanied the foreign musicians in making statements to the Immigration Department yesterday afternoon.
The US and British consulates were aware of the incident and were set to provide assistance to their citizens.