District councils will be asked to identify a spot in their neighbourhoods where street performers can stage shows, in a move to give Hong Kong some of the 'cultural ambience' found in London and New York.
The idea was put forward yesterday to a joint panel on development and home affairs in the Legislative Council, where the government was criticised as being too slow to groom small arts groups. Concern has been building recently that the city's art scene will not be vibrant enough to support the coming HK$21.6 billion West Kowloon arts hub.
'We have little space for performers and arts groups,' Democrat lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said. 'We don't have street performances like London and New York do.'
Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, who chairs the arts hub authority, said he supported encouraging street performances and would ask district councils to find at least one spot in their area for them.
'I think it will be helpful in raising the cultural awareness of people, striking a balance that these performances will not be causing obstruction,' Mr Tang said. Government departments have in the past banned street shows on the grounds they interfere with the flow of pedestrians.
Paul Tse Wai-chun, the lawmaker representing the tourism business, cautioned that street performances would not bloom naturally at a site picked out and regulated by the government.
'From overseas experience, these kinds of performances will grow freely and organically in spaces which are deemed appropriate by arts groups,' Mr Tse said. 'All government should do is to be more tolerant with street performances that will not disrupt public order.'
Banky Yeung Ping-kei, artistic director of FM Theatre Power, which has been staging street performances in Mong Kok, also questioned how to ensure the artists would have sufficient audiences at performance zones.
'Full-time street performers now do not have any government assistance and they can only rely on donations given by spectators,' said Mr Yeung, who hopes there could be subsidies for full-time street performers.
Ng Kam-chun, the vice-chairman of Wan Chai District Council, said it once considered allocating pedestrianised areas, the Southern Playground and public space at Time Square for street performances.
'But the government will have to sort out how these activities should be managed without limiting their performing opportunities,' he said.