Mong Kok, Kowloon
Photo: iStockphoto
Mong Kok, Kowloon Photo: iStockphoto

The show is over for buskers and street performers who have used a pedestrian zone in Kowloon’s Mong Kok for nearly two decades, after district councillors voted to open it up to motor vehicles. And local residents, who are tired of the noise, say they couldn’t be happier.

On Thursday 15 out of 18 members on Yau Tsim Mong District Council voted to allow traffic through Sai Yeung Choi Street South at all times, in support of a motion from Business and Professionals Alliance councillors, Metro Daily reported. The councillors said the vehicle restrictions were hampering retail trade in the area.

Traffic was initially banned from the street 18 years ago from Monday to Saturday between the hours of 4pm and 10pm and from noon to 10pm on public holidays. The restrictions were eased in 2014, with vehicles prohibited only on weekends and public holidays.

Many performers, musicians, buskers and artists converged on the pedestrian zone, eager to show off their talents. But before long they brought loudspeakers with them, prompting nearby residents to complain about the noise levels, which often reached around 100 decibels. That is about the same level as a jet airliner taking off.

One resident with the surname Lee, who has lived in the area since 2003, said he usually had to close all his windows. One of his elderly neighbors found it so unbearable that he would leave early in the morning and return after performers had gone, Apple Daily reported.

The newspaper’s reporter recorded the noise level in Lee’s apartment at 80 decibels with the windows open and around 70 when they were all closed. A police representative at the council meeting said there had been 1,276 complaints about the pedestrian zone last year.

A salesperson at a telecom shop supported the street being reopened to traffic, complaining that the noise and music were so loud that he could barely communicate with his customers.

Not everyone agreed: one person said the zone was part of Hong Kong’s culture and traditions and many people, especially those on lower incomes, liked to visit the street either to perform or to watch a show, Sing Pao reported. Some musicians have said they are worried about a loss of income if they can no longer perform.

However, a woman said that most performers in the precinct in recent years had not been Hong Kong people. She said they all relied on tips handed out by onlookers following their performances.