Hong Kong courts

Judge grants temporary ban on busking at Times Square shopping centre in Hong Kong

Lawyers claim Causeway Bay mall suffered losses as result of musician Jay Lee’s performances that caused ‘nuisance and obstruction’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 12:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 11:29pm

A Hong Kong court on Friday granted a temporary ban on street performers busking at a shopping centre in Causeway Bay.

High Court judge Mr Justice Godfrey Lam Wan-ho approved the request by Times Square, which sought the ban last Friday over concerns the performers caused nuisance and obstruction.

The short-term ban dealt another blow to the city’s buskers, who in August were prevented from performing in another area, Mong Kok, which had for years served as a well-known venue for them.

The owner of Times Square applied for an interlocutory injunction from deputy High Court judge Mr Justice Keith Yeung Ka-hung after initiating legal action last Monday against musician Jay Lee Kwun-kit and other unnamed performers.

The injunction targeted an open and bustling piazza on the ground floor of the shopping centre, next to where it showcases regular exhibitions.

The judge granted the injunction, which will be in place until the court hears the case brought by Lee, who is contesting the mall’s demand.

Lawyers claimed the Causeway Bay centre had suffered losses as a result of Lee’s performances, which “generated noise and obstructed public passage”.

The case came a month after the district council and Transport Department closed a popular entertainers’ zone in Mong Kok following complaints about noise levels and overcrowding.

The court order bans buskers from performing at the piazza, leaving any obstructions, or disrupting Times Square staff carrying out their duties.

Handing down his ruling, Lam said evidence showed various groups of buskers had performed in the piazza between August and early October, and the noise exceeded acceptable levels.

“The noise level readings during the performances have all been above 70 decibels in the piazza,” he said. He said it had reached 90 decibels some four metres from the piazza.

He said considering the ban involved not only weighing up the rights of the mall and the buskers, but also of the public who use the space.

“It seems appropriate to grant the injunction sought,” he said.

Since last Friday, Times Square had put up notices near the piazza and advertisements in newspapers, telling those wanting to oppose the ban to appear at the court on Friday. No one showed up.

Lee has undertaken not to perform at the piazza until he appears in court, while Lam said the musician’s challenge would give the court a better understanding of his argument when it came to reviewing the temporary ban.

I don’t want to end up being sued
busker who previously performed at Times Square

At about 6pm Friday, a legal representative affixed the injunction to a column at the piazza.

Later in the evening, no buskers were seen returning to the spot where they once played.

Instead, stacks of court documents were piled for the public to review, including photos of those who had been warned and previously asked to leave the piazza.

Among them were Canto-pop singers Alfred Hui Ting-hang and Sammy Shum Chun-hin. The most regularly recorded frequenters were buskers from a group called City Echo, which Lee founded.

A busker who asked not to be identified and had performed at Times Square for six years lamented the shopping mall’s stance.

“They once engaged buskers to promote Canto-pop culture there,” she claimed, adding that the mall had turned to Lee and his group in particular.

“I don’t know how to comprehend this.”

Asked if buskers like her would still like to perform there, she said: “I don’t want to end up being sued”.

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.