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LCQ12: Yen Chow Street Temporary Hawker Bazaar

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Priscilla Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (February 3):


     In August last year, the Government notified the stall owners of Yen Chow Street Temporary Hawker Bazaar (YCS Bazaar) in Sham Shui Po that the bazaar would be closed down so that the site concerned could be used for providing subsidised housing.  Some affected stall owners have relayed to me that some cloth hawkers started to move into YCS Bazaar as early as the 1970s.  At present, there are a few dozens of stalls selling cloth in the bazaar, and their customers are mainly practitioners of the fashion design industry and students taking the relevant programmes, as well as textile lovers.  However, the authorities have not fully consulted the stall owners before deciding to close down the bazaar and, upon the issuance of the notice, they invited only those stall owners holding a hawker licence (licensed stall owners) to a meeting to offer the latter compensation options.  Those options include surrendering their hawker licences in exchange for an ex-gratia payment, and drawing lots to select or bid for other stalls on their own to continue their business.  Some stall owners are of the view that such compensation options have not taken into account the economic value, social value and historic significance of YCS Bazaar.  Quite a number of the affected stall owners, their customers and even local residents have relayed to me their hope that the authorities will shelve the decision of closing down YCS Bazaar.  However, should the authorities maintain the decision, they hope that the authorities would relocate the stall owners of the bazaar in the same district en masse, so that the fabrics market with Sham Shui Po characteristics which offers inexpensive goods of good quality can be preserved.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that the deadline for licensed stall owners to give a reply regarding their selected compensation options expired on the 11th of last month, of the details of the replies received by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department so far; whether any stall owner chose to surrender his licence; if so, of the reasons as understood by the authorities;

(2) whether the authorities will offer other compensation options to those licensed stall owners who do not accept any of the proposed options; if they will not, whether the authorities intend not to offer them any compensation at all;

(3) given that a number of stall owners without hawker licences have been doing business in YCS Bazaar for years, and some of them were originally registered assistants of licensed stall owners who have passed away or surrendered their licences, how the authorities will relocate such stall owners;

(4) of the specific timetable set by the authorities for the evacuation of YCS Bazaar stall owners, the closing down of the bazaar and the construction of subsidised housing on the site concerned; given that the majority of the stall owners have relayed to me that they are dissatisfied with the authorities' failure to fully consult them beforehand, and they hope that the authorities can relocate them in the same district, whether the authorities will suspend the plan to close down the bazaar until the discussion with the stall owners has been completed and a proper relocation option has been worked out;

(5) given that the authorities have recently proposed to relocate the relevant stalls to Tung Chau Street Temporary Market but some stall owners consider the market unsuitable for selling cloth, whether the authorities have studied the feasibility of relocating these stalls en masse to other places within the Sham Shui Po District (e.g. under the Tung Chau Street Flyover); if they have, of the options which they have studied and the reasons for not adopting such options; if not, the reasons for that; and

(6) whether the authorities will, by making reference to the mode of Tin Sau Bazaar in Tin Shui Wai, lease a piece of idle land in the Sham Shui Po District to a non-profit-making organisation for operating a market, with priority given to stall owners of YCS Bazaar when leasing the stalls of that market, so as to enable such stall owners to continue to do business side by side in the same district; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Commissioned in 1978, the Yen Chow Street Temporary Hawker Bazaar (cloth market) has 192 hawker stalls in selling mainly fabrics.  The Government has since 1981 earmarked the site occupied by the cloth market for long-term residential development.  In 2005, the question of changing the land use of the cloth market site was discussed at the Sham Shui Po District Council (SSPDC).  Subsequently, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) engaged the cloth hawkers to follow up their relocation arrangement.  In June 2013, the Planning Department briefed the SSPDC on the proposed housing development strategy in the district, which included the proposed use of the site at 373 Lai Chi Kok Road (i.e. the site currently occupied by the cloth market) for building Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats.

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

(1) and (2) The FEHD has earlier presented various proposals to the licensed hawkers of the cloth market.  The options open to them include moving to and continuing their business at stalls in non-cooked food hawker bazaars, on-street fixed pitch hawker stalls or non-cooked food stalls in markets managed by FEHD.  Alternatively, they could choose to surrender their hawker licences in return for an ex-gratia payment.  FEHD has reached a general consensus with the licensed cloth hawkers of the cloth market regarding the exit arrangement.  The choice made by the licensed hawkers varies, with some opting to surrender their hawker licences in return for an ex-gratia payment, while others opting for continuation of their business by moving to on-street fixed pitch hawker stalls.  As reflected by the choices made, the decisions taken by the licensed cloth hawkers are a matter of individual preference depending on personal circumstances.

(3) and (5) The exit plans formulated for the licensed cloth hawkers do not apply to the unlicensed operators of the cloth market.  From policy as well as legal points of view, there does not exist a cogent basis for adopting the same arrangements for both licensed and unlicensed operators, or else the integrity of the licensing regime cannot be upheld.  However, having regard to the fact that the cloth market has been in operation for many years, the age of operators, the contributions that they have made to the clothing, tailoring and related industries of Hong Kong, as well as the historical reasons underlying the presence of unlicensed operations at the venue, the Government is willing to consider making special arrangement in this case and formulate a discretionary exit plan for the eligible unlicensed cloth hawkers (Note), on condition that, existing FEHD facilities close to the cloth market could be put to more optimal use with the hawkers concerned relocated collectively thereto, thereby helping to preserve the original characteristics of the cloth market as far as practicable whilst meeting, in a balanced manner, the needs of the district for other developments.

     At the meeting on January 18, 2016, FEHD offered a proposal to the unlicensed operators of the cloth market for consideration.  Under the proposal, all the eligible unlicensed operators may stay in business by collectively relocating to the Tung Chau Street Temporary Market (the TCS Market) which is not far from the cloth market.  Located at 269 Tung Chau Street in Sham Shui Po, the TCS Market is about 10 minutes' walk from both the cloth market and the nearby MTR station.  It is also in close proximity to Ki Lung Street and Nam Cheong Street, where other cloth-related businesses are congregated.

     The existing cloth market is exceptionally crammed without any permanent roof cover.  Not only is the current business environment less than desirable, the piles of inflammable fabrics that are there could easily become a source of substantive fire risk.  Hence, we propose to consolidate the stalls of the TCS Market and vacate one or two blocks therein for conversion into a cloth market, and let out the stalls therein to eligible cloth hawkers through restricted auctions with upset rent set at open market value.

     A sufficient number of vacant stalls are available in the TCS Market to accommodate all the existing operators, whilst at the same time providing room for further development of the cloth market.  We plan to make appropriate consolidation of the existing stalls at the TCS Market to meet the needs of the fabric trade.  With the provision of facilities such as toilets, fire prevention systems and fans, plus a car park for loading and unloading goods nearby, the TCS Market is equipped with better facilities as compared to the existing cloth market.

     We consider the relocation of the cloth market to the TCS Market a practical, feasible and win-win option that is of benefit to all parties concerned.  It allows the licensed or eligible unlicensed cloth hawkers to continue with their business operations collectively in Sham Shui Po, which helps preserving the economic characteristics of the district.  Besides, upon relocation, the facilities of the cloth market will be enhanced with additional space for further development.  On the other hand, the existing cloth market site could also be released for HOS development, thus benefiting members of the public with housing needs.

(4) To address the current supply-demand imbalance in housing, the Government decided to adopt a supply-led strategy.  The latest housing supply target for the 10-year period from 2016-17 to 2025-26 is 460 000 units, including 280 000 public housing units (200 000 public rental housing (PRH) units and 80 000 subsidised sale flats).  At present, public housing is in tight supply and the Government has to make good use of the bazaar site to meet public demand for HOS development.  According to the current programme, the Government needs to hand over the bazaar site to the Hong Kong Housing Authority by mid-2016 for HOS development.  The flats concerned are scheduled for completion in 2021-22.  It is anticipated that FEHD will close the market in mid-2016.

     The Government has since 1981 earmarked the site of the cloth market for long-term residential development.  In 2005, the change of land use for the cloth market site was discussed at the SSPDC .  From January 2006, FEHD started to meet the relevant stakeholders by batches to seek their views on the arrangements for relocating the relevant stalls.  However, a consensus could not be reached.  Subsequently, in respect of the above HOS development, FEHD has since March 2014 arranged meetings with the cloth hawkers again to follow up the exit plans.  FEHD has managed earlier to reach a general consensus with the licensed cloth hawkers of the cloth market regarding the exit arrangement.  For the unlicensed operators of the cloth market, subsequent to the meeting on January 18, 2016, we have issued letters inviting them to meet us again after the Chinese New Year for further dialogue.

(5) In the neighbourhood of the Yen Chow Street Temporary Hawker Bazaar, currently there is no vacant government land of a similar site area for reprovisioning the cloth market.

(6) The Food and Health Bureau keeps an open mind towards proposals for establishing open-air bazaars with local characteristics, so long as food safety and environmental hygiene are not compromised, and public passageways are not obstructed.  In order to gain broad local support and address various local needs and concerns, these proposals should adopt a district-led and bottom-up approach and be initiated by the local community.    

     If suitable sites are identified and support from the relevant District Councils has been obtained, we will provide assistance as far as practicable to facilitate their communications with the relevant government departments, so that the parties concerned may apply for suitable licences in compliance with prevailing requirements in terms of fire safety, public safety, hygiene and other relevant matters.

Note:  From December 2013 to January 2014, FEHD conducted six surveys in the cloth market.  A total of 33 unlicensed operators in the cloth market were registered.

Ends/Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Issued at HKT 19:16


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