A Hong Kong street musician known for performing the city’s protest anthem, “Glory to Hong Kong,” has been found not guilty of breaching the noise control ordinance relating to a busking incident last July.
The court magistrate absolved Oliver Ma, 21, of the two charges—loud noise created by a music instrument, and loud noise created by a speaker—during a hearing on Tuesday due to contradictory witness statements, media reported.
Yeung, a cleaner who worked near Pedder Street in Central on July 8, the date of the incident, insisted he heard the Chinese-Filipino musician singing loudly without interruption for about 30 minutes starting from 12 p.m.
But a police officer who patrolled the scene at noon, surnamed Lam, said he did not hear any noise before 1 p.m. aside from when Ma was tuning his guitar.
Yeung said he was disturbed by Ma’s performance and could not concentrate on his work. “I couldn’t even see where the litter was,” said Yeung in the courtroom. The judge rejected his testimony, considering it exaggerated.
“I am not super excited or happy [about the verdict], because it was a very exhausting few months, emotionally and mentally,” Ma told Coconuts.
In 2020, Ma was arrested twice in the space of two weeks when busking at his regular spot in Central. The first arrest on July 27, for which he faced a charge of criminal intimidation, was over an argument with an elderly woman who accused him of singing too loudly.
On August 8, Ma was detained again on suspicion of obstructing police officers and possessing an offensive weapon. (His “weapon” in question, authorities alleged, was a pair of toy handcuffs he was wearing while performing. Ma said he was wearing the handcuffs as “social commentary” to allude to his arrest the earlier month.)
All three charges, which Ma described as “very ridiculous,” were subsequently dropped. “But eventually, they decided to start a noise complaint case against me,” said Ma, who believed he was being targeted for performing a protest song.
“It was an abuse of power,” Ma said. “Before the national security law, I could sing all day, all night, while the police could only harass [me]. They couldn’t do anything beyond that.”
“I don’t see a future for myself in performing on the street anymore since everything has happened,” said Ma, who is now taking his music online to, Patreon, a membership platform that allows creators to earn money from their subscribers.
Despite not being part of the street performing scene anymore, Ma said he still wants to speak up and fight for the busker community.
“To some people, street music is just noise. But this is art, and this is freedom of artistic expression,” Ma said.
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