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Urban planning

After entertainers, salespeople ‘should also get boot’ from key Hong Kong shopping street in Mong Kok, council chief says

Yau Tsim Mong district council chairman says hawkers on Sai Yeung Choi Street South are operating in a ‘legal grey area’ and loophole should be plugged

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 11:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 12:03pm

Telecoms salespeople and hawkers could be set to follow street entertainers by getting the boot from the busiest part of a major Hong Kong shopping district if the local district council chief has his way.

Yau Tsim Mong council chairman Chris Ip Ngo-tung on Friday told a radio show that promoters on the major thoroughfare in Mong Kok were operating in a “legal grey area”, and the loophole should be plugged.

“If you don’t work on this … pedestrians will have a hard time walking,” said Ip, a member of the city’s largest pro-establishment political party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

His comments came after the council on Thursday endorsed a government plan to end pedestrianisation on August 4 of Sai Yeung Choi Street South, where the city’s weird and wonderful street entertainers have been showcasing their talent for 18 years.

The zone has been a hotspot for performers but a sore spot for local residents and shopkeepers, who filed more than 1,270 complaints about noise and obstructions in the area last year.

The road is currently closed to vehicles on weekends, allowing performers and hawkers to operate freely, but the arrangement will reach its final act on the weekend of July 28 and 29.

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

Civic Party district councillor Andy Yu Tak-po said he had noticed telecoms salespeople already moving their booths from the road onto pavements in preparation for the change.

“They could be expecting conflicts after the zone is scrapped, so they are marking their turf,” Yu said.

He agreed with Ip on the need for enforcement from government departments, including the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, without which he foresaw unmanageable levels of congestion.

Kim Hung, a 54-year-old singer who has been performing in the area for seven years, said he would stay until the “last moment”.

Curtain to fall on Hong Kong’s street performers as council ‘liberates’ popular pedestrianised zone in Mong Kok

In future his band would perform at indoor venues, he said.

“Street performing and culture is in my history,” the entertainer added.

The government’s failure to regulate performers and the lack of a licensing system were the reasons for the zone’s closure, he said.

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Yu suggested government officials meet performers on Sai Yeung Choi Street South this weekend to “mentally prepare” them for the change.

He predicted many entertainers – and their audiences – would descend on the area on July 29.

Ip said officials from the Transport Department would meet the district council in September to report on the effects of reopening the road to traffic.

Councillors could then push for improvements such as widening of pavements and tightened law enforcement, Ip said.