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Red-light street in line for stop sign

Portland Street, infamous as part of Mongkok’s flourishing red-light district, might be turned into a pedestrian walkway.

And as a taste of things possibly to come, part of the street will be closed to traffic tonight to make way for expected crowds of New Year’s Eve revellers.

The move has been proposed by operators of Langham Place, the up-market commercial development that has transformed the once-seedy part of Mongkok.

We want to make sure that Portland Street will be free of traffic to cater for the huge crowds that are expected to gather around and come to Langham Place to see the performances and activities we organised to celebrate the Chinese New Year, a company spokeswoman said.

Portland Street will be closed between Argyle and Shantung streets between 8pm and 1am.

We think it can be regarded as a trial for turning the street into a pedestrian walkway, the spokeswoman said. Langham Place is now in discussion with the government to make it a permanent policy.

Red minibuses that formerly waited in Portland Street have already moved to a transport centre on the ground floor of the Langham Hotel to ease congestion.

But Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Hui Tak–leung said he opposed the proposal.

We will not support the plan. Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mongkok is now a pedestrian walkway and it is jammed with counters set up by telecommunications and insurance companies to tout for customers. The street is now in chaos, he said.

Mr Hui said he suspected the proposal was the result of collusion between the government and businesses in Portland Street.

The council earlier suggested closing part of Canton Road for three hours a day to ease congestion, but it was banned by the Transport Department.

The Transport Department objected to our plan which helps the public but put forward the Portland Street proposal in our council meeting. I find this very suspicious, Mr Hui said.

He said the district council only supported closing part of Portland Street on special occasions for a short period.

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