The Buildings Department has asked a Mong Kok shop to remove a noise barrier it installed to block the sound of loud singing from the pedestrian zone outside.

LANEIGE, a cosmetics brand on Sai Yeung Choi Street South, said in a statement that it had no alternative but to “reluctantly comply” and remove it in due course.

The street is known for performers singing with mics and loudspeakers on weekends and public holidays.

The noise barrier.

The shop had put up a 6 x 10-metre barrier last Sunday night completely blocking its front door from the street, where there are often two groups of performers competing for attention from passersby. The barrier appeared to partially block the flow of pedestrians.

The brand said it received a large number of complaints from customers over the past year, claiming that the noise caused a serious nuisance.

“We are also concerned about comments from front line staff members saying they had to work in a noisy environment on weekends and holidays, which caused harm to their vocal cords and throats – and they were worried that their hearing may be damaged, increasing their psychological pressure.”

The company said it only decided to use the noise barrier temporarily and only when necessary during weekends, after it contacted different stakeholders several times and raised the concerns to relevant government departments.

“But a comprehensive solution was not reached,” it said.

The barrier, when deployed, reduced the noise level behind the barrier from 94.5db to 80db, allowing sales staff to speak to customers.

LANEIGE said it respected freedom of expression and the right of the public to perform and use the pedestrian zone: “But we also hope all members of the public can enjoy weekends in a carefree environment.”

The noise barrier.

The Buildings Department told HKFP that it recently sent officers to inspect the shop and found that the noise barrier was an illegal structure because it did not receive prior approval to be installed. It said the structure was newly built and hence has to be removed under current policies. It will issue a removal order in accordance with the Buildings Ordinance.

Authorities designated the street as a temporary pedestrian area in the early 2000s and the traffic-free 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.

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 are 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.

Kris Cheng

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.