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Hong Kong police

Buskers from Mong Kok driven out of Tsim Sha Tsui by angry Hong Kong protesters

Police have to escort trio, who set up near Star Ferry pier after closure of pedestrian zone for street performers earlier this month

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 August, 2018, 11:58pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2018, 10:12am

Three street performers had to be taken away by police from Hong Kong’s Star Ferry pier on Saturday night after drawing dozens of protesters decrying their arrival.

At about 7pm, demonstrators with banners reading “Begging is illegal” went to the pier to drive away the performers, who used to ply the streets of Mong Kok. Three performers, including one middle-aged woman called Ling, were circled by protesters demanding they leave the Tsim Sha Tsui site.

Ling and the others – who belt out Chinese-language classics to passers-by, seeking spare change – had moved from a well-known pedestrian zone in Mong Kok, which was formally shut down by officials on August 4.

Wayne Chan Ka-kui, convenor of pro-independence alliance Students Independence Union, which organised the protest, accused the performers of making excessive noise, illegal begging and occupying public space. He asked police to enforce the law.

He shouted slogans such as “Give me Star Ferry pier back” and “No bad-quality culture”. Protesters in the crowd occasionally echoed his chants.

The situation soon turned chaotic, both sides berating each other.

“Go back to mainland China! Go back to the Bay Area to sing red songs,” one protester said.

“You are bullying the elderly. We are Chinese,” the cornered performers replied. The singers were guarded by about a dozen police officers, who said they had arrived in response to noise complaints.

After about 20 minutes of exchanges, Ling and two elderly male performers packed up and were escorted to a police car by the officers. Police said that was to prevent the incident from escalating, and that no arrests were made.

Ling later said police drove them to Mong Kok MTR station. “My mood is so bad,” she said. “It’s too much that they treat us like this.”

She said she was considering performing at a different place in the city.

Chan said he did not know how many people attended the protest. He did not rule out another, similar campaign in the future.

Another group of Hong Kong locals hung banners which read: “The influx of low-quality performers makes people have no interest shopping at Harbour City and Canton Road.” One protester, who called himself Mr Leung, said he was a local resident and felt the performers were too noisy and damaged the culture of the Star Ferry pier.

Cleared out of Mong Kok, what next for Hong Kong's buskers?

Mr Fong, who had been performing at the spot for two years, said it would be good if the campaign raised awareness of overcrowding for street performers. “Maybe a licensing system can be considered for street performance,” he said. “But the problem for the system would be whether the government can set up fair and credible standards.”