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LCQ2: Newspaper hawker licences

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (November 16):


     Some newspaper hawkers who mainly rely on selling cigarettes and newspapers have relayed to me that their business is worsening because of the significant increase in tobacco duty by the Hong Kong Government in recent years, as well as the emergence of a large number of free newspapers and competition from convenience stores.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the existing number of licensed newspaper hawkers in Hong Kong; and whether the authorities had issued new licences for newspaper stalls in the past three years; if they had, of the number of licences issued each year;

(b)  in respect of licensed newspaper hawkers, whether the authorities have any long-term policy on matters such as business environment and the issuance of licence, etc.; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c)  apart from relaxing the restriction last year to permit the sale of additional commodities such as bottled water, etc. at newspaper stalls, whether the authorities will consider further permitting newspaper hawkers to sell packaged snacks and make use of the space at their stalls for letting out advertising space to supplement their income; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Street hawking has a long history in Hong Kong.  Although such activities may, to a certain extent, facilitate the public to shop, they may also cause environmental hygiene problems and noise nuisance as well as obstruction to public passageways.  For many years, the Administration's policy has been to properly regulate the hawking activities of licensed hawkers and take enforcement action against illegal hawking.

     In 2009, in response to the licensed newspaper hawkers' concern over the increase in tobacco duty that may result in income loss, as well as their urge for the Government to help them improve their business environment, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), having consulted the trade, relaxed the relevant restrictions by expanding the list of additional commodities permitted for sale to 12 items.  On top of the eight commodities already approved (i.e. tissues, cigarettes, cigarette lighters, sweets, chewing gums, preserved fruits, battery cells and pens), four more types of items, namely bottled distilled water, trinkets, lai-see packets and cell phone cards, have been added to the commodity list.  All licensed newspaper hawkers are currently permitted to sell these 12 items of additional commodities under their licences.  The restriction on area used for the sale of additional commodities is also relaxed by expanding the space limit from not more than 25% to not more than 50% of the total stall area.  In addition, FEHD allows licensed newspaper hawkers to display within the confines of their stalls lawful advertisements related to commodities permitted for sale under the licence without making further application.  There is no restriction on the total space used for display of advertisements, though considering that public passageways should be obstruction-free, advertisements should not be extended beyond the confines of the stalls.

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

(a)  At present, there are 540 licensed newspaper hawkers in Hong Kong.  The Administration has not issued any new newspaper hawker licence over the past three years.

(b)  Since the 1970's, the former Urban Council had generally stopped issuing new hawker licences and imposed stringent restrictions on succession to and transfer of hawker licences already issued, with a view to gradually reducing the number of hawkers by natural attrition.  To ensure that the hawker licensing policy meets public expectation, the Food and Health Bureau and FEHD conducted a review on the hawker licensing policy earlier and decided, after consultation with the Legislative Council Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene (with Members' support received at the meeting held on April 14, 2009), District Councils, hawker associations and relevant stakeholders, to re-issue new Itinerant (Frozen Confectionery) Hawker Licences, to relax succession and transfer arrangements for "Dai Pai Tong" licences without compromising environmental hygiene, and to make better use of some vacant fixed pitch stalls in response to different views in the community on hawking activities, including the aspirations for preservation of local heritage.  Given the growing number of newspaper and magazine retail outlets in recent years, as well as the diverse public views over on-street trading activities, the Administration has no intention of issuing new newspaper hawker licences, but will process the applications for succession to and transfer of newspaper hawker licences in accordance with the established policy.

(c)  Newspaper Hawker Licences are issued mainly for the sale of newspapers and magazines.  Given that the number of additional items permitted to be sold at newspaper hawker stalls has increased to 12, and licensed newspaper hawkers may display lawful advertisements relating to the commodities permitted for sale within the confines of their stalls, the Administration considers that the relaxation measures have taken into full account the business environment of newspaper hawker stalls.  That said, FEHD will continue to communicate with the representatives of licensed newspaper hawkers to gauge their views on the operational arrangements, and consider their proposals on improving their operating environment.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:41


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