Hong Kong busker Dave May has plenty of street cred

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 6:36am

Since 1996, Dave May has been on the fiddle in Hong Kong - not that he's doing anything illegal.

The Scotsman from Stenhousemuir has been a busker, or street performer, in the city for the past 17 years but has often encountered police orders to move along. On some occasions, the shooing isn't polite.

Busking is not illegal here, however. A court ruled in 2010 that street performers were protected by a law guaranteeing the freedom to engage in literary and artistic creation.

That means in reality, anyone who thinks he has talent and wants to show it off should be able to do so.

"It's just that some police officers don't seem fully aware of the law," May says. "It's not like I'm begging or hawking, but some are genuinely in a quandary as to what to do."

A police spokesman said the Hong Kong statutes carried no specific prohibition on street performance per se. However, street performers, like the public at large, are subject to the laws, including prohibitions on nuisance, annoyance or obstruction in any public place to people or traffic. These laws apply whether or not payment is involved.

"If you are respectful to the police officers you'll be fine. I've never been dragged off to the police station and charged with anything," May says. "There may be other reasons why you have to move, say, there's a political rally or something. I understand there may be other factors."

The 53-year-old spends half the year playing in Hong Kong and the other half travelling around Europe in the summer. Generally you'll hear his melodies at the walkway that connects the bottom of the Central escalator to the IFC building.

"This is my front room. Do you like what I've done with the place?" he asks while pointing at a mural painted behind on the walkway wall.

"Local Chinese people are always very appreciative of the violin music. It's not played very often here in public."

A government spokesman said it was their policy to promote and encourage wide participation in the arts and culture.

"We welcome street arts performances to enrich the cultural life of the community and the arts scene," he said. "There are no laws that prohibit street arts performances. Nevertheless, street performers, like other residents of Hong Kong, should comply with the laws."