Park musicians turn deaf ear to officialdom

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2006, 12:00am

The battle over the ban on amplifiers in Tuen Mun Park intensified yesterday as angry performers and their fans confronted police and park officers trying to unplug them.

It was the second consecutive Sunday that the show degenerated into conflict after residents complained about the noise.

The musicians, who cluster at the corners of the park on weekends and play music through amplifiers, condemned the ban as 'infringing their human rights' and threatened to rally at Government House if the ban was not lifted.

About 300 musicians and their fans shouted abuse while rallying outside the park office, demanding to see the park manager. At the peak of the tension, police tactical unit officers were called.

The confrontation came after quiet performances organised by the government - to draw some of the impromptu performers' spectators - failed to hush people. Some of the spectators at the government shows, which included yoga and magic performances, complained the sound volume was too low.

Several groups of musicians showed up after lunch, setting up their instruments, including amplifiers and speakers, and started their weekend performances of Chinese music and dance, drawing 500 fans, mainly retirees and new migrants.

Erhu player Chan Cheung, of a performing troupe called Ming Sing (which, in Cantonese, means loud sound), said: 'All sounds are equal. They don't like our music and they say it is noise. We, as Hong Kong citizens, have the right to play music in a public park. We do not charge anyone. It is self-entertainment.'

About 30 minutes later the road-side show was aborted as park officers arrived to stop performers using amplifiers, saying they were too loud.

But the orders fell on deaf ears and, several times officers responding to complaints were forced to retreat amid verbal abuse.

Leisure and Cultural Services Department chief leisure manager Margrit Li Lai-fan said: 'We welcome all people to visit the park so long as they do not cause nuisance to others.'

She said the park management had been tolerant but more than 400 noise complaints had been received in the past three months. 'They have repeatedly refused to listen to us and we have no choice but to take action,' she said.

Legislator Leung 'Long Hair' Kwok-hung went to the park to support the performers and promised to do so next Sunday.