Keeping street life vibrant

City talk | Siu Sai-wo 2 Aug 2018

The Yau Tsim Mong District Council has decided to close the 18-year-old Mong Kok pedestrian zone, which has, over the years, been turned into a street performing hub.

But its closure may lead to new and thorny problems emerging as street artistes and buskers may look for new venues in other districts.

In an over-crowded city like Hong Kong, keeping streets unobstructed while maintaining their vibrancy is a tall order.

Think tank Civic Exchange is concerned about the issue and published a report in April, with case studies that included the pedestrian zones in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, beggars in Central, and street vendors' and performers' activities in general.

Chairman Evan Auyang noted that street management responsibility is spread across different departments and many of the related laws are outdated.

He suggested the government conduct a comprehensive review to bring the entire system up to date to meet the demands of changing times.

Street management is of growing relevance to the vibrancy of a city. This is true not only for Hong Kong but also for many places around the world, so municipal governments are paying more attention to this subject.

In the Mong Kok case, Civic Exchange chief executive Winnie Cheung Chi-woon pointed out that the noise problem there has existed for a long time, but the laws and enforcement actions have been inadequate to deal with it.

So residents complained, the district council intervened, and the pedestrian zone was closed, she said.

If one looks closely, one can see that the problem has deep roots, so in the report, the group set out questions that should be pondered regarding the regulatory regime, and collected reference material on the situation in other cities like Taipei.

Maintaining a vibrant street life is more difficult than it may seem, Cheung said. Many details have to be carefully worked out, and the group is contributing its thoughts by making recommendations in the report on how this can be achieved.

is publisher of Sing Tao Daily

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