Civic Exchange Urges Government to Improve Management of Mong Kok Pedestrian Zone

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HONG KONG, 21 May 2018—Civic Exchange, an independent public-policy think tank, calls on the Government to control the use of amplifiers, increase policing of illegal activities, and establish a licensing scheme for street performers to improve management of Hong Kong streets, including the Mong Kok pedestrian zone. These measures will help alleviate issues created by busking and hawking while preserving the city’s vibrant street culture.

These recommendations come ahead of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council’s meeting on 24 May 2018. Several motions that will be discussed at the meeting include a proposal to end the Sai Yeung Choi Street pedestrianisation trial scheme and the introduction of a licensing scheme to tackle noise pollution and other issues in the Mong Kok pedestrian zone to protect the rights of residents and shop-owners in the neighborhood.

Civic Exchange confirms its long-term support for setting up more designated pedestrian zones in Hong Kong but agrees that appropriate measures should be taken to improve street management. Our report “Managing Vibrant Streets,” published on 11 April, 2018, highlights problems such as noise pollution, outdated regulations, and the lack of Government coordination and a coherent street management policy while outlining recommendations for improvements.

“We believe the Government can take action to mitigate nuisances in the Mong Kok pedestrian zone, such as by introducing legislation to restrict the use of amplifiers and increasing police enforcement to rein in illegal hawking and commercial promoters,” said Carine Lai, an urban-planning researcher and author of the report. “Proper management of the Mong Kok pedestrian zone can serve as a good example to demonstrate how designated pedestrian zones should be developed to promote local art and culture.”

Civic Exchange supports the proposal to introduce a scheme requiring performers to apply for licenses and to abide by certain conditions regulating times and durations of performances, size of performance groups, noise levels, obstruction, and safety. Those who do not comply may have their licenses revoked and face penalties under relevant laws.

Many world-class cities have such schemes for buskers to manage noise, allocate space, and rotate performers. In New York City’s Times Square, costumed characters, ticket sellers, and other hawkers are required to stay within designated activity zones in order to deter aggressive touting and solicitation of tips. In Canada, Vancouver regulates the use of amplifiers and limits the number of performers to two per street block at a time; they are also required to change locations every hour to avoid annoying people.

To further promote vibrancy, the community and District Councils should be consulted on the kind of street activities, such as festivals and farmers’ markets, they would like to see in their neighborhoods. Instead of simply focusing on nuisances, the Government should explain to the public the potential benefits of adding more pedestrian zones to make Hong Kong a more walkable city, improve its air quality, and enhance the public’s enjoyment of the streets. Around the world, Paris, Madrid, Oslo, and 10 other cities are already taking steps to go car-free, Hong Kong should join them rather than get left behind.

“We support the Hong Kong 2030+ development plan to enhance the uniqueness, diversity, and vibrancy of Hong Kong districts and streets,” said Civic Exchange CEO Winnie Cheung. “To achieve this goal, there is a need to update legislation and strengthen leadership to coordinate different government departments and devise a comprehensive street management strategy. We all want cleaner air and more walkable and vibrant streets.”

The full “Managing Vibrant Streets” report and other materials are available at: civic-exchange.org/reports/vibrantstreets

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About Civic Exchange
Civic Exchange is an independent public-policy think tank with a vision to shape a liveable and sustainable Hong Kong. Our mission is to engage society and influence public policy through research, dialogue, and the development of practical solutions. “Managing Vibrant Streets” is part of a wider programme of research relating to walkability, public open space, and urban planning. Civic Exchange has been ranked among the top 50 environmental policy think tanks in the world by the University of Pennsylvania since 2011.

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