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Hong Kong culture

Three reasons Mong Kok is better off without buskers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 5:10pm

The noise pollution caused by buskers in Mong Kok prompted the district council to vote to take them off the streets. That has made people accuse the government of suppressing the development of Hong Kong culture. However, I don’t share their view. I support the government for three reasons.

To start with, the meaning of the busking zone has been lost. The noise from the busking zone not only affects the quality of life of local residents, but also the performance of other buskers – as all of them use stereo equipment to maximise their volume and their audience. This also means that the performances no longer aim at showcasing talent but have become more about competing over who has the better stereo equipment, so as to produce the loudest sound.

Watch: Mong Kok musicians silenced as council votes to bring calm

Secondly, a ridiculous “booking” culture has appeared. It is not uncommon to find a large banner placed on the ground in the pedestrian zone. But most of the banners are not advertisements. Rather, they help buskers reserve their space. This would be an obstacle to talented newcomers breaking into the busking zone, as the booking culture means space in the zone is no longer available on a first come, first served basis.

Hong Kong’s never-ending battle with noise pollution

And thirdly, the performers add to the overcrowding on the already narrow streets of Mong Kok. Furthermore, when a lot of buskers show off their skills in this crowded area at the same time, even a marvellous performance can become a cacophony. This might deter talented buskers who cannot accept their show being vandalised by other singers.

However, I do not mean that busking culture should disappear from our streets. An online application and licensing system could help resolve the noise problem while still allowing talented buskers to entertain the crowds.

William Law, Sau Mau Ping