Urban planning

18 years of raucous Hong Kong street entertainment to end on July 29 as Mong Kok pedestrian zone reaches final act

Officials unveil deadline for the reopening to traffic of Sai Yeung Choi Street South, where the weird and wonderful of the city’s street performers showcase their talent

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 10:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 11:40pm

The curtain will finally fall on buskers in one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping areas on July 29, after 18 years of raucous entertainment.

The government announced the deadline on Wednesday for the closure of the Mong Kok pedestrian zone along Sai Yeung Choi Street South. The road will be open to traffic around the clock from the following day.

The Transport Department said 97 per cent of local residents and shopkeepers supported the move in a recent consultation exercise. The figure was disclosed in a paper to be tabled for discussion at a meeting of Yau Tsim Mong district council on Thursday.

The local council passed a motion in May to terminate the zone by a vote of 15 to 1. Since the year 2000 sections of the road have been closed to traffic during specific periods of the week.

The government scheme has made the area hugely popular with buskers and other entertainers, as well as tourists. But local residents and shop operators have been up in arms over noise disturbances, and submitted more than 1,200 complaints last year.

The zone is currently car-free between 4pm and 10pm on Saturdays and from noon to 10pm on public holidays. The hours were shortened several times between 2010 and 2014.

Hong Kong pedestrian zone to be scrapped after more than 1,000 complaints about Mong Kok street performers

The department said in the paper that average pedestrian flow during weekend peak hours had fallen to between 10,700 and 14,800 people an hour. Those numbers were a 24 per cent drop on 2014, when the opening times were last cut short.

There were between 85 and 104 vehicles passing through the street per hour at evening peak time on an average weekday.

The department said the pavements should allow for “reasonable pedestrian flow” and the road could cope with the traffic when the street was reopened.

“Therefore, we are of the view that from the viewpoint of traffic management and road safety, it is feasible to reopen the relevant [area] to traffic all the time,” the paper said.

Local residents and employees welcomed the news.

Why Mong Kok pedestrian area should be closed to noisy performers

Ice Wong, a shop assistant at a clothing store, said she had been longing for the final closure of the zone since the district council vote in May.

“I can understand why someone threw an acid bomb from above. The noise always gives me a headache,” Wong said.

She was referring to three incidents in the street in 2008 and 2009 when corrosive liquid was dropped onto Sai Yeung Choi Street South, injuring about 100 people in total.

“It actually adversely affects our business because the performances are terrible,” Wong said of the entertainers on the street.

A local resident, Gabriel Wai, also applauded the department’s decision. He lives on the 16th floor of a building in the area but said he could still not stand the noise.

“It does create trouble in our daily lives, including disturbing my son’s study,” the 42-year-old said.

A singer in the zone known to fans by her stage name “Ling Ling” said she might move to other streets or footbridges to continue her shows.

“Many people like to listen to me,” she said.

Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Andy Yu Tak-po, of the Civic Party, urged the government to step up monitoring to avoid the performers moving elsewhere and causing a nuisance.

“Street performances should be regulated,” Yu said. “Closing the pedestrian zone is not addressing the issue.”