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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hong Kong pedestrian zone to be scrapped after more than 1,000 complaints about Mong Kok street performers
Sai Yeung Choi Street South to be reopened to traffic after area becomes free-for-all for entertainers, prompting grumbles from residents
May 17, 2018
South China Morning Post Excerpt

The days are numbered for one of Hong Kong’s busiest street performance areas after district councillors agreed to suspend it, following more than 1,200 complaints by residents last year.

But politicians were divided on how long Sai Yeung Choi Street South, in Mong Kok, should stay reopened to traffic. Pro-establishment councillor Chan Siu-tong said it should be indefinitely, while the Civic Party’s Andy Yu Tak-po preferred a temporary suspension of the pedestrian precinct scheme until the government could come up with a licensing plan for performers.

“I agree to suspend it … but cancelling the scheme indefinitely would not solve the problem, because the street performers would just move to other pedestrian zones such as Tsim Sha Tsui,” Yu told a radio programme on Thursday.

The Mong Kok pedestrian zone scheme was launched in 2000. Sai Yeung Choi Street South and sections of other nearby roads were closed to traffic to boost shopping and other commercial activity in the busy district.

But in 2013, the government restricted the scheme to just weekends and public holidays at the request of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council after residents complained about noise and safety issues.

In 2016, the issue of unlicensed hawkers on nearby Portland Street became a flashpoint for the Mong Kok riot. A government crackdown during the Lunar New Year holiday escalated into violent clashes between police and protesters.

On Thursday, Chan said the council would meet next week to end the pedestrian zone indefinitely because the problems had worsened.

“There are now salespeople from telecoms companies setting up lots of street booths there, and the quality of some street performers … is just so bad. Residents cannot bear it even for a few hours at weekends,” Chan said.

The government received more than 1,200 complaints about noise last year. A survey commissioned by the Liberal Party found that performances on Sai Yeung Choi Street South on Saturday nights were as loud as 101.5 decibels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
May 25, 2018
Curtains to fall on Mong Kok pedestrian zone
Hong Kong Economic Journal Excerpt

The Mong Kok Pedestrian Precinct, implemented since 2000, on part of the Sai Yeung Choi Street South, one of the busiest streets in Hong Kong and a popular hotspot for shopping and a tourist attraction, is drawing to an end following complaints of noise pollution from many locals.

Although the Transport Department began to restrict the opening hours of the zone to weekends and public holidays in 2014, the area began drawing more street performers, leading to much noise that became a nuisance to shops in the area, residents living upstairs and pedestrians walking in the zone.

At a meeting on Thursday, the Yau Tsim Mong District Council, which has been concerned about the issue for many years, discussed several motions regarding the problems arising from the Mong Kok pedestrian zone at a meeting, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

One of the motions was moved by four council members from the pro-establishment Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, calling for fully scrapping the pedestrian zone.

Council member Andy Yu Tak-po from the Civic Party, on the other hand, sought a temporarily closure until the government comes up with an effective supervision mechanism as well as launch a licensing system for street performers.

After debates, 16 members voted in favor of shutting down the controversial zone, while one member opposed the closure and one abstained.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
May 26, 2018
Hong Kong Economic Journal Excerpt
What next after seeking shutdown of Mong Kok pedestrian zone?

The Yau Tsim Mong District Council recently passed a resolution calling on the government to scrap the pedestrian zone at the Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok.

Back in 2000, the Transport Department tabled a document to Legco proposing to establish pedestrian zones in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui on the grounds that both pedestrian and traffic flows in these districts were extremely high.

By designating parts of the main roads in these areas as pedestrian zones, the Transport Department hoped that it could improve the urban environment for pedestrians and alleviate air pollution through traffic diversion measures.

At that time public response to the proposal was largely positive.

Ironically, perhaps only very few people, if not totally none, among those who supported the idea 18 years ago were able to foresee that this well-intentioned proposal would one day turn into a significant source of public nuisance and a major bone of contention in society.

For the recent district council meeting, the government only sent engineers from the Transport Department but none from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

While the pedestrian zone, particularly the one in Mong Kok, has become a hub for street performers as well as a popular cultural attraction for both locals and tourists over the years, it appears the government still regards it as purely a transport issue, when in fact it is far beyond that.

Simply put, while the Mong Kok pedestrian zone has taken on a life of its own and become a mass entertainment hotspot over the years, the government has completely lost touch with its changing nature.

As a result, authorities have been unable to grasp the full extent of the problems presented by street performers, let alone regulate and manage them.

To be quite frank, scrapping the Mong Kok pedestrian zone would only at best provide a quick fix; the government hasn’t got to the root of the problem of vehicle-pedestrian conflict in our city downtown.

As the vehicle population and local pedestrians and tourist numbers continue to grow, the problem is likely to worsen in the days ahead even if all the pedestrian zones are shut down.

Still, residents and shopkeepers along the Sai Yeung Choi Street South would perhaps very much welcome the closure of the pedestrian zone.

And the police, who are at their wits’ end about street performers and the public complaints against them, would also probably love to see the shutdown of the pedestrian zone.

Some pan-democratic lawmakers and community groups have suggested that the government introduce a licensing system for street performers and set parameters for their performances so as to minimize their nuisance to residents in the neighborhood.

However, I don’t think it is going to work, because I guess no street performer or musician would be willing to take the trouble to apply for a “Playing Musical Instrument Permit in Public Street or Road” from the police according to the current law.

Nor would the suggestion of setting up another official mechanism to regulate street performers be likely to work either, given its potential for stirring up political controversies and our notorious bureaucratic red tape.

That being said, it appears closing down the Mong Kok pedestrian zone is the only option on the table.

Nevertheless, the problem is, the government may be able to kill the Mong Kok pedestrian zone, but it can hardly kill the passion of street performers and musicians to showcase their talents in public.

As such, I believe the only thing a shutdown of the Mong Kok pedestrian zone would do is drive the street performers to other districts, thereby spreading the problem of noise nuisance across the city.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Jul 13, 2018
Hong Kong Economic Journal Excerpt
District council endorses plan to end pedestrian zone from Aug 4

The Yau Tsim Mong District Council has overwhelmingly endorsed the plan of the Transport Department (TD) to scrap a pedestrian zone in Mong Kok from August 4.

The proposal won almost unanimous support from the district council during a meeting Thursday, paving way for authorities to make preparations to reopen the Sai Yeung Choi Street area to vehicular traffic full-time three weeks from now.

The pedestrian zone became a matter of a heated debate earlier as local residents and shopkeepers complained about noise and other disturbances in area, in part due to street performers.

On May 24, the district council voted in favor of ending the pedestrianization, prompting the TD to take up the matter seriously and work toward reversing its previous arrangements for the area.

In a public consultation the TD launched in the district through the Home Affairs Department, around 97 percent of the respondents supported the motion to close the pedestrian street, according to David Ngu Chi-vi, the department’s chief traffic engineer for Kowloon,

For the survey, authorities sent questionnaires to building owners’ corporations, building management offices, certain residents and shop owners, as well as Yau Tsim Mong district councilors.

According to Ngu, the pavement will be sufficient for the pedestrians after traffic resumes in the zone.

District councilor Chan Siu-tong from Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong praised the efficiency of the Transport Department.

The closure of the pedestrian zone marks a victory for the locals’ campaign, he added.

Andy Yu Tak-po, a district council member from the Civic Party, was among the few who opposed the closure of the pedestrian zone.

Yu argued that rather than ending the pedestrianization, it would have been better if authorities enforced some rules in relation to street performances.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hongkongers watch Mong Kok street artists’ deafening, tearful farewell before iconic pedestrian zone closure
As planned, at 10pm police broadcast messages asking entertainers and audience members to leave colourful area
South China Morning Post Excerpt
July 29, 2018

Throngs of Hongkongers, tourists and buskers flocked to Mong Kok’s famous pedestrian zone on Sunday night for one last hurrah before it was to be closed for good while police officers fanned out in large numbers to ensure the night would not turn ugly.

The singing and farewell speeches were more deafening than ever, as performers tried their best to outdo one another to entertain their fans a final time at the iconic area – along a 500-metre stretch of Sai Yeung Choi Street South – that had captured the imagination of tourists and local residents alike for nearly two decades.

Street artists wrapped up their performances with “farewell” karaoke songs, weaving in forlorn farewell messages as well as tearful embraces.

Elderly couples and their friends re-enacted their younger years with cha-cha style dancing on the street, as others scrambled to take selfies with the zone’s best-known personalities.

But when the clock struck 10pm, there were to be no encores for street performers who were forced to give up the space to vehicular traffic again.

Indeed, shortly after 10pm, police officers and personnel from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department started urging performers and pedestrians to return to the pavements and give way to motorists. Most cooperated.

At about 10.40pm, the clearance was completed and cars were able to pass through Sai Yeung Choi Street South.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Mong Kok street performers band together to call for licensing system in Hong Kong to revive lost culture
After years of competing for space and trying to outsing one another, artists who have lost their popular performing ground want better regulation and a compromise with authorities
South China Morning Post Excerpt
July 30, 2018

Street performances in the heart of Hong Kong can be brought back to life if authorities introduce a licensing system and learn from other countries, buskers have said, a day after an iconic stretch in the city was closed to them for good amid noise concerns.

On Monday, performers lamented that the vibrant culture at the famous Mong Kok pedestrian zone – a 500-metre stretch of Sai Yeung Choi Street South – had changed over the years, leading to the shutdown. They said singers competed to see who was louder, compared with the past when there was a spirit of cooperation.

Ng Siu-fai, spokesman of an association of 22 Mong Kok performers and performing groups said his camp was drafting a proposal on licensing to the government. The group’s Chinese name translates into ‘Mong Kok Street Culture Association’.

Hong Kong currently does not have any permit framework in place to regulate street performances.

The association recommended having quotas for the number of performers in a certain area, with rules on noise levels. In a phone interview, Ng said the noise limits would be set according to the nature of the site, so there would be different conditions across areas.

“Such a mechanism would be beneficial to Hong Kong’s street performing culture,” he said.

The criteria to qualify for licences should be low so even amateurs could apply, Ng suggested, adding that the system could be adopted across the city, not just for gigs in Mong Kok.

He said it would be ideal if Sai Yeung Choi Street South was reopened for street performances because with its high pedestrian traffic, more people could be entertained.

The group intends to submit the proposal to the government by the end of August and seek a meeting with officials and district councillors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It’s like Mong Kok, only worse. Councillor issues damning verdict as Hong Kong’s buskers take their performances to Star Ferry Pier
Andy Yu calls for urgent government meeting as some musicians say they may opt to showcase their talents in Tsim Sha Tsui seven days a week
South China Morning Post Excerpt
August 5, 2018

A district councillor wants officials to find an urgent solution to an *explosion in busking activities in Tsim Sha Tsui, calling the sudden increase in performers around the Star Ferry pier a “worse copy” of the former situation in Mong Kok.

After the official closure of the pedestrian zone on Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok on Saturday, some performers had moved their acts to a public space outside the pier, upsetting some regular buskers who lost their places, and shopkeepers who complained about the increased noise levels.

District councillor Andy Yu Tak-po, a Civic Party member, said the situation could be worse at the ferry pier than in Mong Kok, as it was open to the public every day of the week, at all times.

“It is like a copy of Mong Kok,” Yu said on Sunday.

Before its closure, the pedestrian zone in Mong Kok was closed to vehicles during the weekends from noon to 10pm.

Some groups who relocated to the Tsim Sha Tsui area performed near a bus terminal, with loud speakers and amplifiers, only leaving at 11pm on Saturday.

The quiet did not last long, however, as some were already back on site by 1pm the next day.

At least two groups were performing outside the pier, while another two were active at the seafront near the clock tower.

A 59-year-old female singer, surnamed Li, placed her amplifier and electric keyboard near one of the entrances to the pier at 1pm, but did not start performing.

“If I come late there will be no space,” Li said, adding she had stayed at the pier until 10.30pm the day before. She said the noise level was similar to Mong Kok’s, adding: “If the government does not regulate this place, it will become another Mong Kok.”

More : https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong...-only-worse-councillor-issues-damning-verdict
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Buskers from Mong Kok driven out of Tsim Sha Tsui by angry Hong Kong protesters
Police have to escort trio, who set up near Star Ferry pier after closure of pedestrian zone for street performers earlier this month
South China Morning Post Excerpt
August 11, 2018




Apple Daily

Three street performers had to be taken away by police from Hong Kong’s Star Ferry pier on Saturday night after drawing dozens of protesters decrying their arrival.

At about 7pm, demonstrators with banners reading “Begging is illegal” went to the pier to drive away the performers, who used to ply the streets of Mong Kok. Three performers, including one middle-aged woman called Ling, were circled by protesters demanding they leave the Tsim Sha Tsui site.

Ling and the others – who belt out Chinese-language classics to passers-by, seeking spare change – had moved from a well-known pedestrian zone in Mong Kok, which was formally shut down by officials on August 4.

Wayne Chan Ka-kui, convenor of pro-independence alliance Students Independence Union, which organised the protest, accused the performers of making excessive noise, illegal begging and occupying public space. He asked police to enforce the law.

He shouted slogans such as “Give me Star Ferry pier back” and “No bad-quality culture”. Protesters in the crowd occasionally echoed his chants.
 
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