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Hong Kong culture

Why licences for buskers won’t work in Hong Kong: think ‘censorship’ cries

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2018, 10:45am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 2:23pm

Whether or not the Mong Kok pedestrian precinct should be closed has recently provoked heated discussion online, especially after the Yau Tsim Mong district council voted to open Sai Yeung Choi Street South up to traffic again (“Mong Kok street performers get the chop”, May 24).

Amid the controversy, some believe that the Hong Kong government should regulate street performers by issuing licences. Similar measures are taken by the Australian government. Local governments in Australia issue licences to buskers and street performers. The permit of those street performers who receive noise complaints are liable to be revoked.

In Brisbane, such licences remain in effect for a period of three months. Auditions are held to ensure the quality of the performances. Hong Kong, however, has yet to decide on an official mechanism to manage street performers.

Hong Kong’s decision to shut out Mong Kok street performers shows government-business relations are a mess

At first glance, a licensing mechanism seems to be effective to regulate the street performers in Hong Kong and to prevent the residents and shop owners in the precinct from being disturbed. However, licensing implies that some criteria have to be set up to evaluate the performers and buskers.

In the current politically sensitive environment, a licensing mechanism that does not go your way could lead to accusations of censorship. Even though the government may screen out a performance simply due to disturbance reasons, some may regard it as a way to curtail their freedom of expression. Given the already intense political atmosphere in Hong Kong,I see no possibility that the government will launch a licensing scheme for street performers in the near future.

 Anson C.Y. Chan, North Point