Date
15 August 2018
After lengthy debate, the Yau Tsim Mong District Council (inset) voted to scrap the Mong Kok pedestrian zone, which had been popular with street performers but had sparked noise-pollution complaints from locals. Photo: HKEJ
After lengthy debate, the Yau Tsim Mong District Council (inset) voted to scrap the Mong Kok pedestrian zone, which had been popular with street performers but had sparked noise-pollution complaints from locals. Photo: HKEJ

Curtains to fall on Mong Kok pedestrian zone

The Mong Kok Pedestrian Precinct, implemented since 2000, on part of the Sai Yeung Choi Street South, one of the busiest streets in Hong Kong and a popular hotspot for shopping and a tourist attraction, is drawing to an end following complaints of noise pollution from many locals.

Although the Transport Department began to restrict the opening hours of the zone to weekends and public holidays in 2014, the area began drawing more street performers, leading to much noise that became a nuisance to shops in the area, residents living upstairs and pedestrians walking in the zone.

At a meeting on Thursday, the Yau Tsim Mong District Council, which has been concerned about the issue for many years, discussed several motions regarding the problems arising from the Mong Kok pedestrian zone, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

One of the motions was moved by four council members from the pro-establishment Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, calling for fully scrapping the pedestrian zone.

Council member Andy Yu Tak-po from the Civic Party, on the other hand, sought a temporarily closure until the government comes up with an effective supervision mechanism as well as launch a licensing system for street performers.

After debates, 16 members voted in favor of shutting down the controversial zone, while one member opposed the closure and one abstained.

Yu’s motion was voted down as it won only two votes, although he claimed that scrapping the zone is tantamount to “chopping off the toes to avoid sand worms”, a Cantonese slang for treating the symptoms but not the cause.

Another council member, Chow Chun-fai — who has no political affiliation — moved to request the government to proactively provide more indoor and outdoor performance venues for performers. Sixteen voted in favor of Chow’s motion.

Chan Siu-tong, a council member from the alliance, who raised the closure motion, said he was in favor of setting up the pedestrian zone years back because he believed the then-government’s promise that it could help improve air quality and make people enjoy a pleasant walking environment, only to find out later that it was not the case at all after all these years.

It is good to see a mistake that was made 18 years ago can be rectified finally, Chan said.

Meanwhile, James Wong Wing-hing, who represented the Transport Department at the meeting, said that the department will begin to conduct a survey on human and vehicular traffic flow soon before submitting the results to the council by July, as well as study the feasibility of expanding the pedestrian road and adjusting traffic lights in the zone jointly with other departments.

The department did not elaborate on when the pedestrian zone will be officially scrapped.

Before the meeting was held at the Mong Kok Government Offices, more than 10 members of a civic group called Community March gathered outside the building to protest against “killing” the street.

A fan of the street performers in the zone said the government should allow street performers to take turns on the road by introducing a lot-drawing system.

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TL/JC/RC

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