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LCQ10: Hawker control policy

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (May 18):


     It has been reported that the public was earlier concern about the incident in which a 72-year-old hawker, who had been selling charcoal-roasted egg waffles for 30 years, was prosecuted repeatedly by the Hawker Control Team of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) within a short period of time. The incident has once again sparked discussions in the community about the hawker management policy. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) among the unlicensed hawkers prosecuted by FEHD in the past three years, the number of those who were prosecuted for selling cooked foods; the number of those who were prosecuted more than once by the Hawker Control Team of FEHD, and the respective numbers of unlicensed hawkers who were prosecuted repeatedly within one month, two weeks and one week;  

(b) as it has been reported that there are public views that, in addition to issuing new Fixed-Pitch Hawker Licences to allow applicants to operate the existing vacant fixed hawker pitches as agreed in 2009, the Government should issue more new hawker licences to enable the grassroots to engage in small businesses and stand on their own feet, whether the authorities will consider such suggestions and give small business operators opportunities to earn a living; and

(c) as it has been reported that there are public views that allowing hawkers to operate within legally prescribed times and locations may enable the grassroots to make a living and may also boost economic activities in the community, especially in new towns such as Tung Chung and Tin Shui Wai, etc. where street economic activities are totally non-existent, and that setting up hawker bazaars or markets there may not only make up for the aforesaid shortcomings but may also develop these areas into tourist attractions of Hong Kong with special characteristics, whether the authorities will make reference to the experience of the Mainland and the neighbouring regions (e.g. Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, etc.) and consider designating new legal hawker areas in certain districts as hawker bazaars and night markets with special characteristics, etc., to allow members of the public (e.g. the elderly people and people who sell goods with traditional characteristics) to apply for operating small business there, so as to boost the local culture and community economy; if they will, whether the authorities have any preliminary idea; if not, of the reasons for that?



     The Government's policy on hawker control is to regulate the hawking activities of licensed hawkers and take enforcement action against illegal hawking, so as to safeguard food safety and environmental hygiene. 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, officers of Hawker Control Teams (HCTs) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) 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 safeguarding food safety and public health, HCTs will still take immediate enforcement action against unlicensed hawkers selling prohibited or 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. Reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) In the three years from 2008 to 2010, there were a total of 17 919 convicted cases of unlicensed hawking, with 687 of them involving selling cooked food without a licence. Some 2 900 persons were prosecuted twice or more. FEHD does not have statistics on the time gap between prosecutions involving repeat offenders.

(b) and (c) In response to the call in the community for re-issuing hawker licences, the Food and Health Bureau and FEHD conducted a comprehensive review on hawker licensing policy between 2008 and 2009. During the review, we consulted the Legislative Council Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene (the Panel), the 18 District Councils (DCs), over 20 hawker associations and other relevant stakeholders.  While some of them supported re-issuing hawker licences, certain DCs and stakeholders held opposing views. Their main concerns were that hawking activities would cause environmental hygiene and noise nuisances as well as obstruction to public passageways and hazard to pedestrian safety, which were not consistent with the prevailing public expectations regarding food safety and environmental hygiene.

     After striking a balance between different views and obtaining the Panel's support, FEHD has already implemented a whole host of new measures on hawker licensing in response to different views in the community on hawking activities, including the aspirations for preservation of local heritage. Such measures include re-issuing itinerant hawker licences to the so-called "small ice-cream vendors" and fixed-pitch hawker licences; as well as relaxing succession and transfer arrangements for "Dai Pai Tong" licences. As at April 2011, FEHD has issued a total of 54 new licences to "small ice-cream vendors" and 233 new fixed-pitch hawker licences. Besides, FEHD has hitherto received ten applications for transferring "Dai Pai Tong" licences in Central to the licensees' offspring and five of them have been approved.

     As for the suggestion put forward by some members of the public of setting up open-air bazaars with local characteristics at suitable sites, the conclusion of the review on hawker licensing policy is that FEHD stands ready to provide, in collaboration with the relevant departments, appropriate assistance to the proponents if they have identified suitable sites with support of the local DCs and have satisfied the requirements on food safety and environmental hygiene. In addition, as advised by the Home Affairs Department, it has all along been rendering support to DCs in organising activities to promote local characteristics and attractions, including the introduction and promotion of hawker bazaars with unique characteristics through different channels.

Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:42


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