A Mong Kok shop has installed a noise barrier to block loud singing from the pedestrian zone outside.

The district’s Sai Yeung Choi Street South is known for street performers singing with mics and loudspeakers on weekends and public holidays.

LANEIGE, a cosmetics shop on the street, put up a six by ten-metre barrier on Sunday night to completely block its front door from the street, where there are often two groups of performers competing for attention from passersby.

noise barrier
The noise barrier.

A staff member of the shop told Apple Daily that the noise is often too loud and sometimes scares customers away. The newspaper found that the noise level outside the barrier measured 94.5db, but it was reduced to 80db behind the barrier, allowing sales staff to speak to customers.

Gaga, a dancer performing outside the shop, told the newspaper that police officers previously warned them not to turn the volume of their musical instruments up too high. But she disagreed that her performances were too loud.

“I don’t have a keyboard, just a karaoke machine. The people next to me have a keyboard, drums, and a woofer… I am innocent,” she said.

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A Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officer was seen taking photos of the new barrier. Vincent Ho, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, told the newspaper that the noise barrier may block pedestrians and that authorities may ask the shop to remove it.

Authorities designated the street as a temporary pedestrian zone in the early 2000s and the zone was originally implemented every day. After district councillors voiced concerns over noise and light pollution, pedestrian zone hours were reduced to 4pm to 10pm on Saturdays, and noon to 10pm on public holidays.

noise barrier
The noise barrier.

After the opening hours of the pedestrian zone were shortened, more performers were cramped into the area on Saturdays and public holidays. Chinese-style song and dance groups were often criticised by localist groups, and the two groups have been known to clash.

Hong Kong has no licensing regulations or restrictions on street performers.

Mr. Wally

Meanwhile, a Japanese singer on the same street has spoken up to dispel a “misunderstanding” after some claimed on social media that he was stopped by police officers from performing for a second time.

Mr Wally, named after the Where’s Wally? books, was threatened with arrest last month. The performer said that he did not have a Hong Kong identity card, which was required for working in the city. But the singer, who holds a working holiday visa, said he had since obtained a Hong Kong identity card, and the matter was resolved.

On Sunday, a photo was circulated on social media showing police officers standing around the singer, as commentators claimed he was unable to receive donations and was asked to leave.

mr wally
Photo: Facebook/Apple Daily.

But the singer soon clarified that the officers told him they received complaints of begging and hawking. He said he stopped performing when police asked for identification documents from him and his local friends.

“After checking our IDs, they politely said that they received complaints, so they have to look into them and check identification according to procedure,” the singer wrote on social media.

He added that the officers did not forbid them to receive donations.

“I won’t easily give up with your support… I will continue singing for you all,” he wrote.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.