Hong Kong courts

Street singer’s legal challenge for longer Mong Kok performance hours rejected by Hong Kong High Court

Decision effectively dashes hopes of musicians and others seeking to perform in popular commercial area more often as they had in the past

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 9:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 10:38pm

A Hong Kong court on Monday dismissed a street singer’s judicial review application challenging a government decision to cut the opening hours of a Mong Kok pedestrian zone popular with performers.

The High Court’s decision effectively dashed street singers’ hopes they could perform there more often and inject energy into a shopping precinct popular with tourists.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung said that all three of singer Tony Lui Yuet-tin’s grounds for judicial review had failed.

Up until January 2014, there was a scheme in place to close off the zone at Sai Yeung Choi Street South to traffic from Mondays to Saturdays from 4pm to 10pm so singers and other artists could perform, giving the area a uniquely Hong Kong feel. The zone was also closed to vehicles on Sundays and general holidays from noon to 10pm.

But officials amended the scheme after January 2014 so that the area remained open to traffic from Monday to Friday, meaning singers such as Lui could only perform in the pedestrian zone during weekends and general holidays.

In his application, Lui argued the government’s 2014 decision was unlawful as the commissioner for transport did not take into account the impact of the policy change on traffic and the safety of pedestrians in the zone. But Au said in the judgment the Transport Department had already carried out traffic and pedestrian impact assessments.

“In assessing the impact on pedestrian flow, [a department employee] reviewed the related traffic censuses about pedestrian flow of the streets conducted since October 2008,” the judgment read.

Lui said officials took into account a public consultation that was conducted improperly.

He also argued the commissioner had abdicated his decision-making power by rubber-stamping suggestions from the district council’s Traffic and Transport Committee, as well as Yau Tsim Mong District Office.

He failed to convince the court with these two grounds as well.

In a 2014 interview with the Post, Lui said he had been playing music in the zone since 2010 and attracted a number of fans. With the government’s decision which effectively cut his time to play music in the zone, he said he had suffered financially.

Lam Fat, a band member who had been performing in the pedestrian zone for seven years, said he had no problems not being able to play music there on weekdays because the noise would affect residents and shops.

But he said what needed to be sorted out was that police had told performers like him to stop playing because of the noise level even when the area was closed off to cars.

“There were cases when some people complained to police about those performing next to us, and we got kicked out too.”