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LCQ12: Enhance environmental hygiene

     Following is a question by the Hon Steven Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (March 20):


     After weathering the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003, the Government has organised a number of large-scale clean-up activities and conducted publicity campaigns with a view to improving the hygiene conditions at the community level.  Yet, it has been reported earlier in the press that an organisation has located 100-odd hygiene black spots when inspecting various communities, reflecting that with the passage of time, the hygiene awareness of both the Government and the public has been gradually weakening, hygiene efforts at the community level have slackened, and hygiene problems are still severe. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the numbers of Fixed Penalty Notices issued separately by the various government departments to persons committing public cleanliness offences in the past five years; whether the Government has conducted any review of the enforcement of the relevant legislation and the level of the fine; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) of the work carried out by the Government to enhance the environmental hygiene awareness of the public in the past five years; whether it has assessed the effectiveness of such work; of the new planning or development direction that the Government is going to formulate in respect of the relevant work;

(c) whether the authorities have regularly assessed the hygiene conditions of the 18 District Council districts (18 districts) and carried out clean-up work targeting at the hygiene black spots in the various districts; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) whether the authorities have conducted studies on holding the "Team Clean" campaign again to mobilise the 18 districts to collaborate with one another in enhancing the overall hygiene level of Hong Kong and carrying out thorough cleaning and disinfecting work targeting at public places, public housing estates and back alleys, etc., so as to reduce the risk of spreading diseases; if they have, of the relevant plans; if not, the reasons for that; and

(e) whether the authorities have conducted studies on holding a "territory-wide hygiene black spot reporting campaign" to require the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) to formulate a performance pledge stipulating that FEHD must handle the reported cases properly within a specified period of time upon receipt of hygiene black spot reports made by the public; if they have, of the relevant plans; if not, the reasons for that?



     Providing a clean and hygienic living environment for the people of Hong Kong is one of the primary tasks of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD). The work in this respect includes regular scavenging, refuse collection and pest control operations. Depending on the circumstances prevailing at individual locations (with particular regard to say locations where the conglomeration of shops leads to sub-standard environmental hygiene conditions), FEHD adjusts the frequency of street washing and pest control operations and steps up enforcement action as appropriate, including issuing fixed penalty notices to persons contravening the relevant legislation.

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

(a) In May 2002, the Government introduced a Fixed Penalty System against common public cleanliness offences, namely littering, spitting, fouling of street by dog faeces and unauthorised display of bills or posters.  Offenders were subject to a fixed penalty of $600. In 2003, in light of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, the level of fixed penalty was raised to $1,500 from June that year to achieve the desired deterrent effect. At present, the Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness Offences) Ordinance is enforced by seven government departments, including FEHD, the Hong Kong Police Force, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Housing Department, the Environmental Protection Department, the Marine Department and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.  The total numbers of fixed penalty notices issued by these enforcement agencies against offenders in the past five years are set out in Annex.

     The Government reviews the actual situation on the ground and the level of penalty from time to time to ensure the effectiveness of our enforcement actions in combating public cleanliness offences. As could be seen from the Annex, the number of fixed penalty notices issued by the enforcement agencies in respect of cleanliness offences are more or less the same in the past five years.  The current level of penalty is considered to carry a good measure of deterrence.

(b) In May 2009, in light of the global and local outbreak of human swine influenza, the Government published 2.5 million copies of a booklet entitled "Keep Clean, Be Healthy", a guide to personal, home and environmental hygiene, for distribution (by mail and through other channels) to all households and members of the public in Hong Kong.

     The Finance Committee of the Legislative Council approved on July 14, 2009 additional funding for the relevant departments to launch a series of environmental hygiene improvement initiatives for a period of 12 months. In order to raise public awareness, the Government launched a "Clean Hong Kong Day" on May 10, 2009, and rolled out a series of campaigns and activities organised by FEHD to combat human swine influenza, with a view to disseminating messages promoting personal, domestic and environmental hygiene in the community including foreign domestic helpers.

     The District Councils (DCs) together with the Home Affairs Department and FEHD organise hygiene related community involvement events, including display of promotional materials across the territory. Relevant departments will continue to promote personal, domestic and environmental hygiene through public education and promotional activities conducted at different levels, with different stakeholders as the target group. The Government will continue to take the lead and work closely with the DCs and various sectors providing support for sustaining public involvement with a view to upholding public awareness about the value of and fostering good personal habits in environmental and hygiene matters.

(c) In light of the special circumstances surrounding the global and local outbreaks of human swine influenza prevailing at that time, FEHD, after taking into account the hygiene conditions of various districts and in consultation with the DCs, identified 105 hygiene black spots in the territory in May 2009 and conducted large-scale cleansing operations. Those operations were completed in February 2010. After inspection, the DCs agreed that the condition of the black-spots in their respective districts had significantly improved and all the black-spots had been removed from the list. FEHD will continue to maintain close contact with various DCs and local personalities to monitor the hygiene condition of the locations concerned as well as across the territory. Additional cleansing services will be provided where necessary to maintain environmental cleanliness and hygiene.

     With respect to the 107 hygiene black-spots identified in various districts by an organisation in February this year, FEHD has, upon investigation, enhanced the clean-up operation at 97 hygiene black-spots in public areas. The remaining ten black-spots which fall outside the purview of FEHD have been referred to the relevant departments/organisations (including the Lands Department, the Water Supplies Department, the Highways Department, the Housing Department and The Link Management Limited) for follow up action. As at March 7, FEHD has finished the cleansing operations at 33 hygiene black-spots and will continue to follow up on the remaining 64.

(d) As stated above, providing a clean and hygienic environment for the people of Hong Kong is an important task of FEHD. FEHD will continue to closely monitor the hygiene conditions across the territory, provide environmental hygiene services and carry out pest control and law enforcement action in the light of the actual circumstances in the respective districts.

     As and when appropriate, the Government will step forward and encourage public participation in concerted efforts to enhance environmental hygiene.

(e) FEHD receives, through multiple channels, complaints from members of the public about environmental hygiene problems, including reports pinpointing locations with unsatisfactory hygiene conditions. According to the performance pledges of FEHD, staff will conduct investigation within six working days of receiving the complaint on environmental nuisance and pest infestation, and take measures to abate the nuisance immediately if possible. If the nuisance could not be abated right away, FEHD will give an interim reply to the complainant within ten calendar days from receipt of the complaint. In those cases where a substantive reply cannot be made within 30 calendar days from receipt of the complaint, FEHD staff will keep the complainant informed about the progress of the case.

Ends/Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 14:26


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