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LCQ3: Tin Sau Bazaar

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, in the Legislative Council today (May 14):


     The Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Tin Sau Bazaar (Tin Sau Bazaar) in Tin Shui Wai, which was set up with the facilitation of the Government and under the operation and management of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs), has commenced operation since February last year.  It has been reported that only 60% of the stall operators were willing to renew their tenancies upon the expiry of their one-year tenancy agreements, and the remaining stall operators did not renew their tenancies as business was dull.  It has also been reported that when TWGHs invited tenancies for 70 vacant stalls in Tin Sau Bazaar by open application and auction in March this year, the office of Tin Sau Bazaar only gave out some 350 application forms and received around 390 enquiries within the 11-day tenancy invitation period.  The response to the tenancy invitation was much less enthusiastic than the situation when tenancies were first invited in late 2011, at which time 3 800 application forms were received.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has requested TWGHs to conduct a review of the causes of the drastic decrease in the number of applicants for the stalls in Tin Sau Bazaar; if TWGHs has conducted such a review, of the outcome;

(2) of the process by which the Lands Department leased out the site of Tin Sau Bazaar to TWGHs under a five-year short-term tenancy, including whether it has conducted an open tender; if it has, of the details; if not, the policy basis for not conducting an open tender;

(3) whether it has monitored the performance of TWGHs in managing Tin Sau Bazaar; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether it will, in view of the management performance of TWGHs, consider early resumption of the site of Tin Sau Bazaar and re-tendering the site for lease to other non-governmental organisations for operating a bazaar; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) given that there are currently 30 stalls which are operated by organisations and four stalls by TWGHs on its own in Tin Sau Bazaar, whether it has assessed if such an arrangement is contrary to the original intention of setting up Tin Sau Bazaar;

(5) whether it will discuss with TWGHs the comprehensive improvement to the facilities of Tin Sau Bazaar, including putting up more directional signs, further improving the power supply and surface drainage facilities, considering afresh the construction of a canopy and introducing a central air-conditioning system; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(6) whether it will request TWGHs to revise the criteria for selecting the stall operators of Tin Sau Bazaar, such as adding the criteria of introducing a greater variety of merchandise, and giving priority to young applicants to provide them with an avenue to start their own business, etc.; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(7) whether it will request TWGHs to extend the business hours of Tin Sau Bazaar or to operate it overnight as well as introduce cooked food stalls; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(8) whether it has requested TWGHs to review the effectiveness of its publicity efforts on Tin Sau Bazaar; if TWGHs have conducted such a review, of the outcome; if the Government has not requested TWGHs to do so, the reasons for that; and whether it will request TWGHs to step up its efforts in this respect; if it will, of the details, if not, the reasons for that;

(9) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of stall operators among the first batch of stall operators of Tin Sau Bazaar, who used to be hawkers carrying out hawking activities in the Morning Bazaar of Tin Shui Wai; whether such stall operators have renewed their tenancies upon the expiry of their one-year tenancy agreements; of the changes in the number of hawkers carrying out hawking activities in the Morning Bazaar since the operation of Tin Sau Bazaar;

(10) whether it will consider setting up similar bazaars in other districts by drawing on the experience in the operation of Tin Sau Bazaar; and

(11) whether it will, in the long run, consider setting up a public market in Tin Shui Wai so as to solve the existing problems of Tin Sau Bazaar in one go, including poor environment, insufficient patronage and merchandise failing to meet the needs of the residents in the district; if it will not, of the reasons for that?



     Our reply is as follows:

(1) According to the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs), applications for stall tenancy were first invited in late 2012 (not late 2011 as mentioned in the question), with 182 stalls available for lease on a monthly basis, including 30 for organisations and 152 for individuals (plus four stalls operated by TWGHs, making a total of 186 stalls).  On the other hand, applications invited for this year involve vacated stalls arising from termination of tenancy agreements upon expiry of their first-year tenancy period.  They include 50 stalls opened for application in March this year for Yuen Long residents aged 18 or above interested to join Tin Sau Bazaar (the Bazaar) and underprivileged individuals on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance or with children receiving full textbook assistance, as well as 20 stalls opened for bidding in April this year by experienced commercial operators.  Given the considerable reduction in the number (70 in total) and choice of stalls available for application compared to those in late 2012, the number of applications would also decrease correspondingly.

     Besides, in response to local requests for enhancement of the operation of the Bazaar, TWGHs has revised the terms of the tenancy agreements to extend the operating hours of stalls from four hours a day last year to eight hours a day this year.  The longer operating hours might also affect the response from applicants.

     Regarding the 50 stalls available for application in March this year as mentioned above, TWGHs received 89 applications in total, recording an oversubscription rate of almost 100%.  As for the 20 stalls available for bidding in April this year, 29 applications were received, representing an oversubscription of almost 50%.  All in all, TWGHs finds it difficult to make a direct comparison between the number of applications received in late 2012 and that in early 2014, having regard to the difference in the situation of the application for tenancy, the number of stalls available, the operational requirements for the stall operators, etc.

(2) The primary objectives of setting up a bazaar in Tin Shui Wai are to provide more shopping choices and affordable goods for local residents, develop the local economy, and create local employment.  As the bazaar operates on a non-profit-making basis, it is most appropriate for a charitable organisation to operate it as a social enterprise.  Being one of the longest standing and largest charitable organisations in Hong Kong, TWGHs has considerable experience in running a social enterprise.  Noting the need to establish a bazaar in Tin Shui Wai, TWGHs submitted its proposal to the Government quickly, indicating its interest in operating and managing the bazaar.  After the Government had accepted the proposal, the Lands Department, with policy support, directly leased the site to TWGHs at a nominal rate according to the established procedures.

(3) TWGHs and the Government have been closely monitoring the operation of the Bazaar, and have been listening to the requests and views of stall operators, District Council members and other stakeholders.  For instance, views are collected at the regular liaison meetings with the stall operators of the Bazaar, while TWGHs' staff, including social workers, stationed at the Bazaar collect views and provide the stall operators with assistance.  Moreover, TWGHs has to comply with the conditions of the short-term tenancy when operating the Bazaar.

     The Yuen Long District Council (YLDC) and the Legislative Council have also been monitoring the operation of the Bazaar.  Before setting up the Bazaar, TWGHs consulted YLDC on October 25, 2012 as well as the Panel on Home Affairs (the Panel) of the Legislative Council on December 14, 2012 and obtained their support.  After setting up the Bazaar, TWGHs updated the Panel and YLDC on the latest operation of the Bazaar on June 14 and September 3, 2013 respectively, and has improved the operation and management of the Bazaar in response to Members' comments.

     To strengthen the operation and management of the Bazaar, TWGHs set up "The Advisory Committee on the Management of Tin Sau Bazaar" (the Advisory Committee) in late 2013 as a platform for thorough discussions by the representatives elected by stall operators and other stakeholders including representatives of TWGHs, government departments and YLDC as well as academics or members of the community to study the measures to support stall operators and enhance the business development of the Bazaar.  The Advisory Committee met on November 12, 2013 and February 13, 2014 and provided constructive advice on the long-term development as well as short- and medium-term venue improvement measures of the Bazaar.  TWGHs and the Government expect that the operation and management of the Bazaar will be improved further.

(4) When applications for stall tenancy were first invited by TWGHs in late 2012, 30 stalls were allocated to non-governmental organisations and social enterprises for the purposes of creating employment for the local underprivileged and fostering social integration.  Upon tenancy renewal in early 2014, 13 organisations fulfilled the requirements for continuing with the operation of their stalls.

     In addition, TWGHs operates four stalls as social enterprise selling refreshment and chilled meat in order to enhance the variety of products and respond to the request for selling meat in the Bazaar.

     The above arrangements are in line with the primary objectives for setting up the Bazaar as mentioned in part (2) of this reply.

(5) TWGHs and the Government have been keeping a close watch on and improving the Bazaar.  On the provision of more directional signs, the location of the Bazaar has been shown on the maps and station guides at the West Rail (WR) Tin Shui Wai Station as well as on the maps and exit signs at the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Tin Yat and Tin Sau Stations since June 2013.

     To improve the capacity of rainwater disposal in the Bazaar, the Architectural Services Department (ArchSD), with the co-ordination of the Yuen Long District Office (YLDO), installed additional service channels at each major aisle and carried out local floor levelling in phases between April and June 2013.  No flooding occurred in the Bazaar last year and this year under inclement weather when the Black Rainstorm Signal was in force.  The situation of puddling of water has also significantly improved.

     Further to the introduction of a number of measures to increase power supply and enhance customers' comfort last year, TWGHs has been implementing another series of improvement to the hardware since January this year, including the provision of more sun-shading facilities, installation of an additional 400 ampere (A) cable and preparation for the setting up of more stalls to sell meat and cooked food (see part (7) of the reply for details).  TWGHs, in collaboration with the power company, has started works to enhance the electricity supply to a total of 800A for the Bazaar, which are expected to complete by the end of June this year.  Stall operators can be allocated with more electricity progressively according to their operational needs in order to further diversify their products and services.

     As far as canopy and central air-conditioning system are concerned, since the Bazaar adopts an open layout with standalone stalls of different sizes, the current design is to provide basic facilities for operation under a short-term tenancy of not more than five years.  The provision of canopy and central air-conditioning system is incompatible with the concept of outdoor market stalls of the Bazaar.  Besides, TWGHs estimates that central air-conditioning will have high energy consumption.  The power supply, even after enhancement in the middle of this year, will be insufficient to support it.  Furthermore, the operating costs of the stall operators will increase correspondingly which may not be cost effective.  Nevertheless, TWGHs has endeavoured to enhance the comfort of the Bazaar visitors during summer and under the sun.  In addition to the awning provided by ArchSD for each stall, TWGHs installed a number of outdoor cooling fans and more than 100 sun umbrellas last summer and completed tree planting in March this year.  More than 60 tailor-made large sun umbrellas will also be provided soon to enlarge the shaded area.

(6) At its meeting on February 13, 2014, the Advisory Committee endorsed the criteria for allocation of stalls and selection of individual applicants, and decided to set aside some of the stalls for open bidding.  Open bidding can attract stall operators with more business experience, hence further diversify the goods and services available in the Bazaar.

     The Bazaar facilitates the entrepreneurial endeavours of stall operators, including young people, by offering relatively low-cost stalls.  A young stall operator established his first computer maintenance service centre in the Bazaar.  Having operated there for a year, he has established a total of three shops in Tin Shui Wai.  Another young operator set up a magic store in the Bazaar, offering courses on magic performance and performing magic shows from time to time at festive events held in the Bazaar.

(7) At present, the Bazaar operates from 8am to 8pm.  This is a consensus reached upon consulting YLDC, nearby residents and relevant stakeholders by TWGHs before the establishment of the Bazaar.  To facilitate Bazaar visitors during festivals, TWGHs appropriately extended the opening hours of the Bazaar during Mid-autumn Festival last year (to 9pm for three days during the festival) and Chinese New Year this year (up to  11pm the latest for three days before the festival).  The feedback was positive.  TWGHs will continue to strive for a balance between the daily life of nearby residents and the development needs of the Bazaar by arranging the opening hours flexibly as appropriate.

     As regards cooked food stalls, two stalls operated by TWGHs as social enterprise are selling reheated refreshments.  TWGHs is equipping these two stalls for processing and selling cooked food.  In addition, of the 70 vacant stalls which were open for application and bidding, four have been reserved for those intending for cooked food business.  Upon enhancement of the overall power supply by mid-2014, TWGHs and the stall operators concerned may apply to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) for the relevant licences for sale of cooked food.

(8) TWGHs keeps under review the effectiveness of its publicity efforts on the Bazaar and steps up related promotion.  TWGHs regularly distributes promotional leaflets at locations with high pedestrian flow, such as shopping arcades, WR and LRT stations, and major bus stops adjacent to the Bazaar.  Since July 2013, TWGHs has put up publicity banners at 33 roadside locations in Yuen Long Town and Tin Shui Wai as well as in Tin Sau Road Park.  Publicity banners and posters are also put up in most of the housing estates in Tin Shui Wai to promote the activities at the Bazaar.  In addition, TWGHs placed bus body advertisements in August 2013 and promotional video on Roadshow in buses from August to October 2013.

     TWGHs organises special events such as fairs and carnivals of various themes at the Bazaar around the time of festivals to attract visitors.  The open space in the Bazaar is also made available to local groups for hosting events to enhance patronage.  Major activities held at the Bazaar include its opening ceremony, "2013 Biciline New Year Bicycle Parade", "Healthy Food Carnival 2013" co-organised with Yuen Long Farmers' Market, ˇ§Back To School Fun Day" for the sale of books and stationery, "Yuen Long Specialty Products and Delicacies Carnival" co-organised with Yuen Long Merchants Association, "Christmas Thankful Sale" with holiday mobile stalls, "Year of the Horse Lunar New Year Fair" and "Colourful Easter" carnival.  YLDO also organises community involvement activities in Tin Sau Road Park adjacent to the Bazaar, including the recent "Kick-off Ceremony of Yuen Long District Youth Festival 2014".  YLDO plans to stage activities such as the opening ceremony of "Colourful Life @ Yuen Long" in August and "Tin Shui Wai North Area Committee Carnival cum Prize Presentation Ceremony" in October at the Bazaar.  Since inception on February 1, 2013, the Bazaar has attracted a total of 607, 395 visitors as at April 30, 2014.  Subsequent to the implementation or completion of various enhancement measures (including improvement to drainage, increased directional signs, stepped up publicity, staging of large-scale events, as well as additional sun-shading facilities and access points) around September 2013, the number of visitors on weekdays and holidays has increased progressively from September 2013 to, say, before the Chinese New Year in late January 2014, with holiday patronage recording a 40% increase.  

 (9) When application for stall tenancy was first invited in late 2012, 72  hawkers of the "morning bazaar", recommended by social workers, applied to operate in Tin Sau Bazaar.  67 of them were admitted.  Upon expiry of their one-year tenancy, 33 of them fulfilled the requirements for tenancy renewal.  

     As regards the "morning bazaar" located by the side of Tin Shui Wai Nullah, FEHD has continued to monitor its situation closely.  In general, FEHD adopts the strategy of warning before enforcement, while prosecution will be conducted if the hawkers concerned ignore the warning.  Given the important policy objective of safeguarding food safety and public health, FEHD takes instant prosecution action against unlicensed hawkers selling prohibited goods/controlled goods/cooked food.  Currently, about 20 hawkers remain at the "morning bazaar", selling mainly vegetables and dry goods such as preserved food and clothes.

(10) The Government is open-minded towards proposals of setting up bazaars.  Any concrete proposal of bazaar at suitable location should be made upon consensus forged at the district level with due consideration of the views of nearby residents and the endorsement of the District Council after thorough discussion.  If a consensus can be reached at the district level, the relevant government departments will take follow-up actions within their ambits.  The Bazaar is one of the examples of establishing a bazaar in response to district needs, in accordance with the specific situation of Tin Shui Wai.  The Government will continue to monitor closely the operation of the Bazaar and draw on the experience.  Taking into account the consensus and specific situations of each district, the relevant departments will also jointly explore whether there are needs to set up open-air bazaars in other districts.  Factors to be considered include assessments on the availability of suitable sites, transport, noise, environmental hygiene and management.

(11) According to the Food and Health Bureau, various factors have to be taken into account for the construction of public markets, including the number of market facilities and fresh provision shops in the vicinity, etc., in order to ensure the proper use of public money.  The Director of Audit has also pointed out in one of his past reports that owing to the high cost for building a public market, the viability of the market has to be duly assessed in determining whether a new market should be constructed.   

     At present, there are six markets operated by The Link and the Housing Authority in Tin Shui Wai as well as 13 shopping arcades, 13 supermarkets and about 90 fresh provision shops in various housing estates to cater for the daily shopping needs of local residents.  According to experience, the viability of a new market will be adversely affected if there are many retail outlets selling similar products/foods in the catchment area of the new market, resulting in high vacancy of market stalls and substantially undermining the functions of the facilities in providing services to the public.

     On account of the above considerations, FEHD has no plans to provide a new market in Tin Shui Wai.

Ends/Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:19


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