It’s official: Mong Kok’s famous pedestrian zone, popular with buskers and spectators alike, is closing on July 29, the last Sunday of this month.
Sai Yeung Choi Street South will re-open to traffic the next day, Sing Tao reported. Officials announced the news on Wednesday, weeks after district councillors overwhelmingly voted to get rid of the pedestrian zone, citing noise complaints.
The area, designated as a car-free zone eighteen years ago, was long synonymous with street performers, acrobats and magicians who lined the strip. But the area has drawn complaints in recent years, as it became flooded with karaoke aunties, some of them singing off-key, each one trying to drown out the next.
Residents say the noise keeps them at night, and their kids can’t concentrate on homework, while businesses allege that the raucous scene turns customers away. Last fall, one of the stores on the street tried to block the cacophony outside its door by lowering a noise barrier (spoiler alert: it didn’t work).
The fight over Sai Yeung Choi Street South’s future ignited a larger debate about public space in the city. Some advocates, including local NGO Civic Exchange, argued that Hong Kong needs more places like the pedestrian zone, but that the government has to implement better policies — such as regulating hours for performances and licensing performers — to keep them from becoming circuses.
After the closure date was announced on Wednesday, reactions on social media were mixed. One Twitter user said that while performers posed a problem, the government’s decision to close the street was “wrong.”
Astound at HK’s never ending capacity for addressing real urban issues with the wrong solutions.
Street performers in Mongkok a nuisance, so let’s cut off on pedestrian space. Because obviously Mongkok needs less pedestrian space.https://t.co/vvXjyeo46f
— Renaud Haccart (@RHaccart) July 11, 2018
Another Facebook user said that she won’t be sorry to see the performers go, writing, “The ladies who were performing on the street not only are really noisy but also block the sidewalk.”