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LCQ11: Hawker control policy

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Gabriel Leung, in the Legislative Council today (May 11):


     According to government information, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) mounted 123,877 raids against hawkers in 2010, i.e. a daily average of about 340 operations.  In recent years, conflicts between hawkers and Hawker Control Teams (HCTs) have time and again been reported in the newspapers, and an enforcement action in Tai Hang on the 10th of April this year became the headlines of several newspapers.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of prosecutions instituted in 2010 by the staff of FEHD against hawkers' unlicensed or illegal hawking; and the number of retired elderly people among those people who were prosecuted;

(b) among the 1,561 joint departmental operations against illegal hawking in 2010, of the number of cases involving "assault on police officers" and "assault on public officers";

(c) of the number of hawkers who were repeatedly prosecuted by staff of FEHD in 2010; and whether there is any practice against hawkers which is similar to putting them "on a watch list";

(d) of the number of goods and paraphernalia seized by HCTs in the past three years; whether the authorities have considered returning such goods and paraphernalia; if they have not, of the reasons for that;

(e) of the justifications for the staff of FEHD to conduct sentinel surveillance beside hawkers and retailers; and

(f) given that a man promoting telecommunication services sought my assistance a month or so ago claiming that he had repeatedly received penalty tickets from FEHD within a few days, and he suspected that the staff of FEHD had started to step up law enforcement in February and March this year to clear from the streets those people who promoted telecommunication services and distributed handbills, whether the authorities had issued any instruction on stepping up enforcement to the law enforcement staff between January and March this year?



     The duties of Hawker Control Teams (HCTs) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) mainly cover three areas, including taking action against illegal hawking, shop-front extension and illegal promotional activities for products and services.  The Government's policy on hawker control is to regulate the hawking activities of licensed hawkers and take enforcement action against illegal hawking.  As regards illegal hawking, FEHD's enforcement policy makes certain allowance for hawkers.  If the hawking activity does not involve the selling of prohibited or restricted food or cooked food and is not conducted in major thoroughfares or areas of high pedestrian flow, HCT officers will give warning first before taking enforcement action and prosecution action will be taken only if the verbal warning is not heeded.  Furthermore, if elderly or disabled hawkers are involved, HCT officers will exercise their powers in a reasonable manner in light of the actual circumstances.  However, under the overarching objective of ensuring food safety and safeguarding public health, HCTs will still take immediate enforcement action against unlicensed hawkers selling prohibited/restricted food or cooked food.  It is necessary for hawker control measures to achieve a proper balance between protection of public health and flexibility in enforcement action.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) FEHD often receives complaints from district councils and the public regarding illegal hawking, shop-front extension as well as obstruction of passageways caused by promotional activities.  A total of 29,811 convicted cases of these illegal activities were initiated by FEHD in 2010.  FEHD does not have breakdowns of the offenders.

(b) Among the 1,561 HCT joint departmental operations carried out in 2010, there were two cases involving assault on public officers and none involving assault on police officers.

(c) Hawker control operations aim to protect public health, ensure food safety and environmental hygiene, and maintain unobstructed access to busy places and main thoroughfares.  Depending on the actual situation, FEHD staff will take enforcement actions against illegal hawking in accordance with the relevant policies.  Whether the offender has been prosecuted before is not a factor for consideration.  Nor does FEHD have any so-called watch list of hawkers.  Statistics shows that in 2010, 5,132 persons were prosecuted twice or more for repeatedly hawking without a licence or committing other hawker related offences.

(d) When arresting unlicensed hawkers, HCTs seize the hawker equipment and commodities concerned in accordance with the powers vested in them under Section 86 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance.  It is also provided in the Ordinance that the court shall order the forfeiture of the equipment or commodities concerned upon the hawkers' conviction of unlicensed hawking.  In the three years from 2008 to 2010, there were a total of 17,919 cases of seizure of goods and paraphernalia upon conviction of unlicensed hawking.  FEHD does not keep statistics on the number of goods and paraphernalia seized.

(e) HCT members are deployed to carry out static patrols at blackspots of unlicensed hawking or locations where obstruction caused by shop-front extension is found, with a view to achieving a deterrent effect.

(f) Regarding the use of easy-mount frames for on-street product and service promotional activities, with the consent of the district councils concerned, FEHD has instituted prosecutions against offenders in the relevant districts since October 2008, and seized the promotional materials and easy-mount frames as exhibits.  After conducting a review on the enforcement practice, and to further control the above-mentioned irregularities, starting from March this year, FEHD law enforcement officers have begun to issue fixed penalty notices to offenders.  Before changing the enforcement practice, the FEHD carried out a two-week promotion and education campaign, giving advice and warning to the people concerned, including issuing warning letters to those commercial organisations using easy-mount frames and similar devices for displaying commercial promotional materials and conducting promotional activities in the street.

Ends/Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:57


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