Performers and traders clash over special street in Mong Kok

The Mong Kok street performers entertain tourists and even have their own loyal fans, but traders say the free fun is hurting business

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 6:42am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 6:42am

Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mong Kok is special to street performers as a place where they can really interact with the passing public.

Local residents see it differently: to them the performers and their fans are a major nuisance and they want the government to get rid of them.

Jacqueline Lau Hon-ying and Chan Kim-hung of Redkim Music have been performing on the pedestrian precinct for the past few years and want to continue doing so.

"We have performed in several places like the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, but Mong Kok is the only place we can really interact with our fans," Lau said.

She said bustling Mong Kok was a good platform for getting the public interested in music.

"It's close to the crowd and many shoppers notice our music while they shop," Lau said.

The band claims to have nearly 1,000 loyal fans, and many travel to see them in Mong Kok every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Chan said things would only get worse if the pedestrianised status was restricted to Saturday, Sunday and public holidays - the option preferred by half of the district councillors.

He said performers were not the only ones using the precinct for their activities. Political activists and promoters of internet and telephone services were adding to the crowd.

If the restrictions were to be introduced, "all the stands from the telecommunication promoters would be moved to the footpaths", he said, while the street performers would rush to the area altogether when allowed. "It will only get more crowded."

John Wong of Wing Shing/Man Shing Photo Supplies, which operates one of its three branches on Sai Yeung Choi Street, said the government should take equal consideration of the interests of all parties.

"Tourists may hope to keep the streets open for performers' use every day, but I don't think you would get the same answers from locals. Shoppers may find it difficult in the precincts as it is often too crowded and jammed," Wong said.

He said Sai Yeung Choi Street had been descending into chaos for the last six months due to all the street performers, and his business has dropped by 20 per cent.

"I am not trying to drive [the performers] away," he said. "But please consider those of us who pay to do business here."

If no improvement could be seen after the Yau Tsim Mong District Council meeting today, Wong would not rule out stronger action in pursuit of his demands.

"I would consider calling in other shop owners to turn off [the shops'] lights at night or even to hold street protests," he said.

Civic Party lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, who has been working with the street performers, urged the government to draft new rules to specifically regulate the street activities in the pedestrian area.