Hounded from parks for playing the bagpipes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 12:00am


Chris Lee Cho-lam may be good enough to play the bagpipes for Paul McCartney, but if he tries playing in one of the many public parks around Hong Kong it's a different story.

Since Lee, 22, started playing nine years ago, he has struggled to find a place to practise in public. Lee, who is a member of the Hong Kong Pipe Band, started piping in 2003 in Germany where he was studying. In 2009 he was studying in Canada when the former Beatle held a concert in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the Hongkonger was picked to join a group of pipers who played McCartney's song Mull of Kintyre live.

But Hong Kong is not bagpipe-friendly. Over the past nine years Lee has not been allowed to play in Lai Chi Kok Park, Kowloon Park, Nam Cheong Park, Kowloon Bay Park, Tai Hang Tung Recreation Ground, Fa Hui Park, Belcher Bay Park and Sha Tin Park.

'I feel like I'm being persecuted,' Lee said. 'And my friends who play with me feel the same way. We are now trying to play at Sun Yat Sen Park in Sai Ying Pun. The problem is every time we try to practise in a public park we are ordered out by security.'

Lee practises along with Andrew Yu Chun-kit, 16, and Karl Chang, 34, who play for the Road Safety Patrol Band and Hong Kong Pipe Band respectively. 'Last year a person threw a plastic bag filled with water at us at Kennedy Pier while we were playing,' Chang said.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said park users were allowed to sing and play musical instruments, provided they did not spark complaints.

'Venue staff will not intervene if a person plays musical instruments or sings in our parks provided that they do not cause a nuisance, obstruction or arouse complaints from others,' said a department spokeswoman. 'If there is a complaint about ... the sound generated, our staff will advise the players to lower the sound level or ask them to stop conducting the activity.'

Lee also plays with the 21st Islands Group Scout Pipe Band and is looking to encourage local people to learn and play the bagpipes properly.

He is planning a new venture called the Hong Kong Institute of Scottish Bagpipe Music, and will rent community halls for events.

'It will be a non-profit organisation,' he said 'All the income we get will be saved for the future development of the organisation, such as hiring examiners to conduct international qualification exams for local people, and we will have a membership system. We are constructing a website and we hope to hold bagpipe events in March.'