Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong’s Times Square seeks ban on buskers and other street performers at mall’s open piazza

Writ filed to High Court argues activities generate too much noise, create nuisance and obstruct pedestrians

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 9:15am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 9:15am

Hong Kong’s Times Square is seeking multiple court injunctions to ban unapproved busking and any other forms of street performance from its 32,500 sq ft open piazza at the heart of Causeway Bay.

The mall owner took legal action against musician Jay Lee Kwun-kit and unnamed performers following “a noticeable increase of busking performances and of concerns and complaints regarding noise pollution”, according to its spokesman.

An application for an interlocutory injunction will be heard on Friday before deputy High Court judge Mr Justice Keith Yeung Ka-hung.

The case centres on a Deed of Dedication dated July 30, 1992, through which Times Square dedicated an area of 32,482 sq ft on the ground floor to the public for the purpose of “pedestrian passage and passive recreation”.

But such recreation does not include busking activities or street performances, according to company lawyers in a writ filed to the High Court on Monday.

“The plaintiff retains full ownership and management of the open piazza,” the writ said. “The right of the public to use the open piazza … is not absolute and is not unrestricted.”

Times Square said busking activities and street performances frequently generated noises beyond 70 decibels, which were likely to cause a nuisance and interfere with the use and enjoyment of the piazza by other members of the public.

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

The mall also complained of the obstruction to public passage caused by performers displaying placards, setting up various instruments and sound amplifiers, and attracting an audience.

In particular, Lee was accused of breaching the deed in “a highly organised and public fashion” when he performed, hosted and arranged for buskers to perform – under the names JL Music or City Echo – at the piazza without Times Square’s approval.

A company spokesman reported issuing 83 warning letters to Lee and City Echo on four occasions between August 17 and September 7.

However, the writ said, the defendants continued to breach the deed and showed no intention of obeying instructions to stop performing, which caused the mall to suffer loss and damage.

Times Square warned of further legal action in a letter dated September 14 and decided to apply for injunctions after finding Lee and related individuals performing on September 21.

A spokesman said: “Times Square has a duty and responsibility to our tenants, our neighbourhood and the general public to maintain order for the activities at Times Square, protect the ambience of the neighbourhood, facilitate public movement and, most importantly, ensure that activities at the open piazza comply with the permitted uses under the deed and the relevant restrictions.”

The company is now demanding a declaration that busking activities or any other forms of street performance do not constitute “passive recreation” under the Deed of Dedication.

It is also seeking an unspecified sum in damages on top of three injunctions to restrain the defendants from occupying or remaining; placing or leaving obstructions; and disturbing or obstructing mall employees in their execution of duties.

Lee has declined to comment due to the ongoing legal proceedings.

Mong Kok buskers told they cannot perform in Hong Kong’s Times Square

Times Square previously told the Post it had observed a growth in buskers at the mall after the closure of a popular entertainers’ zone in Mong Kok.

On August 4, an iconic stretch on Sai Yeung Choi Street South and other nearby roads was reopened to traffic around the clock after almost two decades of being closed on weekends and public holidays for street performances.

The decision by the district council and the Transport Department to terminate the pedestrian zone in Mong Kok was prompted by years of complaints about noise levels and overcrowding, in the absence of any licensing system to regulate buskers.

The closure of the zone sparked concerns that the Mong Kok performers would take their acts elsewhere, such as Times Square.