Face Off: should busking be regulated in HK?

YP ReporterVeronica LinSnehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari

Each week, two of our readers will debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week’s topic is ...

YP ReporterVeronica LinSnehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari |

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Is busking a harmless bit of fun or should it be regulated for the good of the city? Photo: YouTube

Veronica Lin, 17, Hong Kong International School

If you ever walk down the streets of a small town in Europe, it’s very likely that you’ll see loads of buskers showcasing their incredible talents. However, what would be entertainment elsewhere could end up being an entirely different experience in Hong Kong.

To begin with, buskers often choose the most crowded venues to perform, for example, public places such as Times Square or MTR stations. The crowd of onlookers creates a “human traffic jam”, blocking the paths of people going about their daily activities. Regulations as to where and when buskers can perform would help relieve such inconvenience.

What’s more, street performers cause a lot of noise, adding to the traffic and other types of noise that exist in a city like Hong Kong.

Recently, the lines have also been blurred between buskers and beggars, and the reasons for busking have changed drastically. Once, a majority of the buskers used to be part-time musicians or professional performers. But today, they have been replaced by amateurs who have a microphone in one hand and a piggy bank in the other. More regulation would ensure that we have true artists doing street performances, instead of dressed-up beggars singing or playing music in a public place.

For those who fear that such laws would mean fewer opportunities for up-and-coming artists, there are plenty of other ways for buskers to express themselves and entertain the public with their talents.

As a budding singer-songwriter myself, instead of busking, I have been playing gigs four or five times a week at restaurants or clubs. There, I can find an audience who is engaged, and respects my performance. Through these gigs, I have also befriended many experienced musicians who have given me tips on performing and composing. This is far more valuable than catching the eye of some random pedestrians.

Snehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari, 16, Li Po Chun United World College

Hong Kong is a diverse city with different kinds of artists, but many of them do not have opportunities to display their talents. Busking is a form of expression and a platform that helps budding musicians.

The busy streets of Causeway Bay or Mong Kok are a great place to find an audience. There are many people who are happy to take a break from their busy lives to watch a street performance.

Busking brings positive change for many performers. Ophei Kwok Fung-wa has been busking for several years. It all started when she and a few friends had been practising their guitars and decided to start performing for Christmas shoppers. Whenever the police have asked her to leave or keep the volume down, she’s always done so.

Busking is already regulated to a certain extent, and most, if not all performers, obey the law. But sometimes they are treated badly. Many buskers complain that they’re often treated like beggers, even though street performances can greatly enrich city life.

The problem is that the city lacks space where artists can perform. Hong Kong is often called a “cultural desert”, but busking has always been the starting point for many artists.

Anita Mui Yim-fong first performed in Temple Street, and went on to become a superstar after pedestrians admired her singing and dancing. This proves the power of busking.

By interfering with buskers, we are only blocking the progress of talented artists. Busking should be encouraged in Hong Kong, as it provides an opportunity for all, irrespective of their background.

It’s important to respect people’s right to hear, and regulate the noise levels, but buskers are not guilty of any wrongdoing. Further regulations will only hinder the busking culture, and make it harder for amateur artists to shine.

Edited by Sam Gusway