Mong Kok walking street is Hong Kong culture that can be preserved, with auditions and licenses
After long discussions about the nuisance and congestion caused by street performances, and shortening their hours, Sai Yeung Choi Street South pedestrian zone will be history in August (“18 years of raucous Hong Kong street entertainment to end”, July 11). That is according to the Transport Department, after the Yau Tsim Mong District Council voted on May 24 to scrap the zone.
But this pedestrian precinct had become a well-recognised signature of the Mong Kok tourist scene over the last 18 years. Moreover, the Transport Department has been implementing pedestrian schemes in several areas to promote walking. In view of this, rather than halting the scheme, modifications should have been made to maintain or even strengthen the unique characteristics of Mong Kok without compromising the interests of local residents and businesses.
The problem in Mong Kok could be attributed to a recreational-versus-residential land use conflict, with locals and businesses complaining of noise and obstruction. The lack of regulation was an added factor. Further, even though street performers in pedestrian precincts were expected to operate on a first-come-first-served basis, the area was reportedly carved up into sections, with spaces reserved through various means. There were even whispers about “protection fees” needing to be paid to local triads for a chance to perform there.
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However, it is undeniable that street performances enrich the cultural life of the public and serve as a carrier of our valuable Hong Kong street culture. The government should be committed to preserving culture in all forms. Impose regulations if need be, with auditions and licences for street performers, and a designated performance area. Replacing buskers with polluting traffic cannot be the answer. Any form of Hong Kong culture is precious, and Mong Kok street culture will not and must not be the exception.
Kenneth Ho, Tin Shui Wai