Annoying Hong Kong buskers must face the music
Troublesome street performers driven from Mong Kok are now turning up in other areas of the city, and it is time for the authorities to take action
Prolonged inaction against street performers in Mong Kok has nurtured a thriving busking business, so much so that it got out of control and prompted the district council to axe the pedestrian zone last month after 18 years. But the problem is not going to disappear just because performers have been chased away. In fact, they are continuing with their moneymaking activities in areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront and Times Square in Causeway Bay. Regrettably, the authorities have resorted to the same passive approach in dealing with the problem.
Performers continue to attract crowds at Tsim Sha Tsui ferry pier. Whether it is music to the ears is another matter, and the way they sing and dance may not be appreciated by the majority. The noise is also affecting nearby businesses, with some reportedly considering seeking a court injunction. Adding to the trouble is the suggestion that unknown forces are managing the use of space behind the scenes through a fees system. There were even ugly scenes when performers clashed with protesters who said they wanted to restore Tsim Sha Tsui to the way it was before.
The situation in Causeway Bay is somewhat different. Noticing a surge in busking following the closure of the Mong Kok pedestrian zone, Times Square has warned against performances in its piazza. The area is one of the few public spaces privately managed and, on Monday, a Cantonese opera singer refused to leave and police were called in.
Be it a government or privately managed public area, the principle is the same. While the space is provided for public use and enjoyment, there are laws and rules to follow. Users must therefore act responsibly and avoid causing nuisance to others. And, when the line is crossed, enforcement action should follow.
If there is a lesson to learn from the Mong Kok pedestrian zone saga, it is the need for enforcement and compliance. The zone may still have been in place had the authorities been more proactive in ensuring it had been used responsibly. We risk running into the same mayhem if the authorities shy away from enforcement. A more proactive approach is called for.