There are more and more different kinds of street performances in Hong Kong. While these performances add spice to street culture, some people and even the buskers themselves call for more regulations on street performances. Write a letter to the editor stating why people have such a demand and discuss the arguments of both for and against having more regulations on busking. At the end of the letter, state your standpoint.
The recent conflict between a group of street performers and an MTR staff when the former performed in an area next to the railway station has sparked off heated debates in society. Some, including buskers and citizens, put forward a demand for stricter regulations while others sing a different tune. Though I share the same view with the former, the concerns of the latter should never be neglected.
One of the numerous parties demanding more restrictions is residents, who live near the hub of streets performances such as Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. With the rising popularity of rock and punk music, buskers love to bring them to the streets. Though those vigorous performances are widely welcomed by thousands of pedestrians, the sound from the enormous speakers has intensified the noise pollution on those residential areas, where people have been suffering from the noise of heavy traffic and the disturbance from overly-shiny lights. However, it is saddening, according to the residents to see that only very lax restrictions are imposed, as buskers could perform loud or even noisy music on streets once they get the license of low entry barriers. Some may even complain that the closing hours of the pedestrian zones is too short, exacerbating the already very unpleasant living environment.
Besides voices from residents, the buskers themselves even urge the government to tighten its control over street performances, as busking by different groups of people simultaneously disturb one another, who also play music on the streets. Many cases have been reported that buskers called the police because of the disturbances of their counterparts in the same area. Despite a set of liveable noise standards given by the Environmental Protection Bureau, buskers somehow ignore the standards, performing loudly in order not to have their sound of music covered. This has enraged some proper buskers who don’t perform noisily and even the pedestrians who find the mixed noise frustrating. It is a pity that good music is too loud and turns into undesirable noise.
In spite of the great urge for more busking regulations, one should never neglect the views from the other side. For example, some buskers want to preserve their freedom in performing street arts, no matter how, no matter when and no matter where. They believe that the existing regulations provide flexible conditions for performers to express their art talents. It is a kind of civil rights in Hong Kong, an international and culturally diverse metropolis.
Besides those street artists, some may also worry that the restricted licence system will act as a sort of censorship, stopping buskers from performing songs not favouring the government. In Singapore, public assembly is strictly prohibited unless it is held in the only park in the city centre and passed by police officials after complicated registrations. Even busking is illegal, let alone singing songs related to sensitive issues. Some Hongkongers may be afraid that the case of the city of Merlion could be the same in Hong Kong, where performers with strong anti-government stances have flourished.
Concerns of both sides should indeed be considered when it comes to reviewing the regulations on busking. Yet I believe only by limiting the noise level of street performers could harmony be maintained between them and the nearby residents. Plus, the extent of restriction must not be overly-tightened and turned into a tool of authoritarian rule. Anyway, it is high time the authorities introduced more regulations to maintain a sustainable ecosystem of busking while ensuring reasonable living conditions of nearby residents.
Luk Hei Long