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Buskers Busted

Winnie Yeung and Winnie Chau HK-magazine.com 01/02/2009 14:31
Buskers Busted - Buskers - Street Performance

Winnie Yeung and Winnie Chau ask why our city’s street performers can never get a break.

A mid the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, it’s easy to get lost in the noise of the streets. But look behind the crowds of white collars and mainland tourists, and occasionally you will find the crouching tigers we know as “buskers.” Whether they’re playing guitars, violins, harmonicas, erhus, singing, or performing tricks, they bring a different vibe to the otherwise busy streets. And many of them aren’t just doing it for amusement. Most hope to use their talents to make ends meet.
However, while busking is appreciated as a way to make a living in many other countries, it’s often challenged, criticized, or looked down upon in Hong Kong. The police frequently disrupt performances and sometimes issue tickets to buskers. Veteran street performer Andrew So, commonly known as Mr. Funny, was served with a summons in 2007 for causing a nuisance when he performed a fire-swallowing trick at the Mong Kok Pedestrianized Zone (the charge was later dropped by the judiciary).

It’s no surprise then that many people think busking is illegal in Hong Kong. Technically, it’s not. There is no specific law or regulation in Hong Kong that prohibits performing in the street. The officer who issued the ticket to Mr. Funny in 2007 did so under the “Summary Offences Ordinance (Chapter 228),” whereby people who obstruct the street or cause annoyance to others are subject to fines and even imprisonment. And whether one has committed such an offence comes down to the interpretation of the officer.

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