Street singer's legal challenge to shortening hours of Mong Kok pedestrian area

Discord as singer claims government policy deprived him of income and interaction with fans

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 3:44am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

A street singer is planning a court challenge to the government's decision to reduce the opening hours of a pedestrian zone in Mong Kok, saying the move was based on a flawed opinion poll and is costing him money.

Tony Lui Yuet-tin has applied for a judicial review of the Transport Department's decision to reopen the Sai Yeung Choi Street South precinct to traffic on weekdays. Lui, of the band Sing My Song, said the change deprived him not only of opportunities to perform but also of "lively interaction" with his fans.

Before the policy change in January, prompted by noise complaints from local residents, the area was closed to traffic for several hours on weekdays and most of the day during weekends and public holidays. The change followed a vote by the Yau Tsim Mong District Council in November supporting such a move.

In his application, Lui said he had been playing music in the precinct since 2010 and had attracted a number of fans. "On occasions, passers-by would sing along with [me] and throw money into [my] open guitar box," he said.

The singer said he had suffered financially as the decision had reduced the donations he received from onlookers.

He said the decision was based on findings of an unrepresentative poll conducted by the district council last September.

He challenged the results of the poll - to which only 120 of the 745 property managers, residents, and shopkeepers responded.

Of these, 78 per cent supported cutting short the opening hours of the pedestrian zone.

Lui cited a separate poll conducted from late September to early October by Shue Yan University in which 61.5 per cent of the 600 respondents favoured the status quo. Only 38.5 per cent supported a cut in days for the precinct.

The precinct started in 2000 as a means to improve the pedestrian environment and road safety. Over the years, the scheme had been extended several times. Crowds were drawn to the area, which gradually became a haunt of street sellers, singers and performers, prompting mounting complaints from local residents.

Last year, 1,100 noise complaints were reported to have been received by the police.

In his application, Lui said the department had not considered the impact reducing the zone's hours would have on pedestrian safety.

He also cited Article 34 of the Basic Law, which guarantees the "freedom to engage in … literary and artistic creation, and other cultural activities".

Lui's band, also known as SMS, had been playing in Mong Kok every night except Fridays from 6pm to 10pm. He has been protesting since January against the decision.

The Transport Department would not comment yesterday.