No ban yet on buskers at Hong Kong’s Times Square piazza, but musician pledges to temporarily stop performing in 32,500 sq ft space
Mall owner has applied to the High Court for an injunction against musician Jay Lee Kwun-kit and unnamed performers
A Hong Kong musician sued for busking at Times Square has pledged to temporarily stop performing at its open piazza.
But Jay Lee Kwun-kit on Friday said he would challenge the mall owner’s application to ban all street performers from its 32,500 sq ft public space. Lawmaker Tanya Chan noted the case could have a far-reaching impact.
Times Square took Lee and unnamed performers to court earlier this week, complaining it had suffered losses as a result of their activities generating noise and obstructing public passage.
The Causeway Bay mall demanded the High Court issue three injunctions to prevent the performers occupying or remaining on the site, placing or leaving obstructions, or disturbing or obstructing mall employees in the execution of their duties.
Lee later agreed to an “undertaking that restrained him and his agents from performing or obstructing” any of the mall’s staff, until the injunction applications were heard in court. Failure to do so would have left Lee liable for contempt of court.
The first hearing took place on Friday. Deputy High Court judge Mr Justice Keith Yeung Ka-hung acknowledged it would be impractical for Times Square to identify every one of the unnamed performers listed as a second defendant besides Lee.
So he ordered Times Square, represented by Jin Pao SC, to affix copies of the writ it had filed to conspicuous locations at the piazza, as well as advertise it in newspapers and upload the document to the mall’s website, before the next hearing on October 5.
“No injunction has been granted at this stage,” the judge said.
The case comes a month after local authorities closed a popular entertainers’ zone in Mong Kok to address complaints about noise and overcrowding. There is no licensing system to regulate buskers.
Lee had been performing at Times Square for more than five years, during which he sometimes arranged for other buskers to perform under the names JL Music and City Echo.
He said the mall had only begun to take action last month after performers were driven out of Mong Kok.
Lee recalled feeling very surprised and under pressure when he learned of the court case.
“I never thought artistic or street performances could lead to court or enormous legal fees,” he said.
He revealed that he would have to apply for legal aid.
The busker is represented by barristers Ernest Ng and Tina Mok, and solicitor Bond Ng.
Lawmaker Chan, who accompanied Lee to court, said the case could have a far-reaching impact because the current description of the second defendant was very broad, and therefore could extend to all kinds of performers.
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“We’ll have to see who will be considered the second defendant,” she said.
In the meantime, Lee said he would have to scout about for other locations to perform.
A unit of SCMP, cpjobs, has organised a busking campaign among university students. City Echo and JL Music helped promote the campaign during their busking activities at the open piazza of Times Square in July and August. The promotional events were not specified in the writ.