Opinions split over Mong Kok pedestrian zone hours

Polls show people who live and work in Sai Yeung Choi Street South at odds with its other users over altering the precinct's opening hours

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 12:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 7:28am

Mong Kok district councillors are facing a difficult decision as public opinion is split over changing the opening hours of the pedestrian precinct in the area's most jammed street.

Sai Yeung Choi Street South is currently closed to traffic from 4pm to 10pm from Mondays to Saturdays and from noon to 10pm on Sundays and public holidays.

But complaints about a proliferation of street performers have prompted the Yau Tsim Mong District Council to ask the Home Affairs Department to launch a consultation on reducing the days on which the street is closed to traffic.

In a poll conducted by Shue Yan University students, more than 60 per cent of 600 street users indicated that they wanted to keep the status quo.

But the same poll conducted by the Home Affairs Department on 750 residents and shop owners showed that 80 per cent wanted to see the popular pedestrian precinct's opening hours limited to just weekends and public holidays.

The respondents complained of the frequent disruption and nuisance the street activities in the area had caused to their lives and businesses.

The results of both polls will contribute to today's discussion in a meeting with the Traffic and Transport Committee, which will decide whether to cut down on the pedestrian precinct's opening hours.

Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Chris Ip Ngo-tung said he was surprised that 40 per cent of the street users polled supported residents and shop owners' opinion that performances and promotional activities in the area should be restricted.

"That reflects the fact that not all street users welcome the status quo, but think restrictions need to come in and restore order on the street," the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) member said yesterday.

There were three options under consideration to deal with the problem, Ip said. They were to maintain the status quo; restrict pedestrian hours to Fridays and Saturdays only, or restrict the hours to weekends and public holidays only.

The councillor said he would opt for the third option, and compensate street artists barred from performing on weekdays by keeping the pedestrian precinct open on weekends and public holidays from noon until 10pm.

"This is the arrangement that can best meet the demands of both the residents and the street performers," he said.

Ip said seven other DAB members in the 20-member District Council would also pick the same option.

Two other councillors, Wong Kin-san and Hui Tak-leung, who do not share Ip's party affiliation, also indicated that they preferred the third option.

"[The second option] is too harsh to restrict street artists to performing only on Fridays and Saturdays," Hui said.

"I would go for the third option - to open the pedestrian zone on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays."