LCQ9: Yen Chow Street Temporary Hawker Bazaar

     Following is a question by the Hon Helena Wong and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (February 17):


     At present, there are a few dozens of stalls selling cloth in Yen Chow Street Temporary Hawker Bazaar (YCS Bazaar) in Sham Shui Po, and their customers are mainly practitioners of the fashion design industry and students taking the relevant programmes, as well as textile and garment lovers.  The Government will close down the bazaar permanently in the middle of this year.  In December last year, it offered stall owners holding hawker licences with compensation options, which include their surrendering 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.  In addition, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has recently proposed to the unlicensed stall owners of YCS Bazaar that their stalls may be relocated to Tung Chau Street Temporary Market, but some of these stall owners consider that market unsuitable for selling cloth.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as the option that the stalls be relocated to Tung Chau Street Temporary Market, as proposed by FEHD, involves various problems, such as accommodation for street sleepers, and some of these problems may fall within the remit of other government departments, whether the Government has plans to convene inter-departmental meetings to tackle such problems; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether the authorities have conducted any survey on the number of stall owners who refuse to accept the relocation option mentioned in (1); if they have, of the outcome; whether the Government has looked into the reasons why these stall owners have reservations about the relocation option;

(3) whether it has explored alternative solutions, such as "no removal and no demolition" or the resumption, for relocation of the stalls, a site at Tung Chau Street currently used as an open-air car park; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) as the Government has indicated in this year's Policy Address that it will roll out initiatives to support the local fashion design industry, whether the Government has assessed if the closing down of YCS Bazaar will have any negative impact on the development of the fashion design industry, thereby running contrary to the Government's policy of supporting the development of the industry; if it has assessed, of the outcome; if it has not assessed, the reasons for that?



     Commissioned in 1978, the Yen Chow Street Temporary Hawker Bazaar (cloth bazaar) has 192 hawker stalls selling mainly fabrics.  The Government has since 1981 earmarked the site occupied by the cloth bazaar for long-term residential development.  In 2005, the question of changing the land use of the cloth bazaar 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 bazaar) 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 bazaar.  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 bazaar regarding the exit arrangement, with some opting to surrender their hawker licences in return for an ex-gratia payment, and others opting for continuation of their business by moving to on-street fixed pitch hawker stalls.

     The exit plans formulated for the licensed cloth hawkers do not apply to the unlicensed operators of the cloth bazaar.  From the 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 bazaar has been in operation for many years, the age of the 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 bazaar could be put to more optimal use with the hawkers concerned relocated collectively thereto, thereby helping to preserve the original characteristics of the cloth bazaar as far as practicable whilst meeting, in a balanced manner, the needs of the district for other developments.

     FEHD has offered a proposal to the eligible unlicensed hawkers of the cloth bazaar for consideration.  Under the proposal, they may stay in business by collectively relocating to the Tung Chau Street Temporary Market which is not far from the cloth bazaar.  Located at 269 Tung Chau Street in Sham Shui Po, the market is about 10 minutes' walk from both the cloth bazaar 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 bazaar 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 Tung Chau Street Market and vacate one or two blocks therein for conversion into a cloth bazaar, 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 Tung Chau Street Market to accommodate all the existing operators, whilst at the same time providing room for further development of the cloth bazaar.  We plan to make appropriate consolidation of the existing stalls at the 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 market is equipped with better facilities as compared to the existing cloth bazaar.  Some cloth hawkers have expressed concern about security and environmental hygiene in areas around the market.  FEHD has been following up the matters with relevant departments including the Sham Shui Po District Office and the Police, so as to properly address their concerns.  

     FEHD has invited the unlicensed operators of the cloth bazaar to meet again in mid-February for further communication.

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

(3) At present, public housing is in tight supply and the Government has to make good use of the cloth bazaar site to meet public demand for HOS development.  According to the current programme, the Government needs to hand over the site to the Hong Kong Housing Authority by mid-2016 for HOS development after demolition of the building and clearance of the site.  The flats concerned are scheduled for completion in 2021-22.  Regarding the proposal to collectively relocate the operators of the cloth bazaar to another place within the Sham Shui Po District, relevant departments have indicated that there is currently no vacant government land of similar size that is suitable for relocation in the vicinity of the cloth bazaar.

     We consider the relocation of the cloth bazaar to the Tung Chau Street 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 bazaar will be enhanced with additional space for sustainable development.  On the other hand, the existing cloth bazaar site could also be released for HOS development, thus benefiting members of the public with housing needs.

(4) Paragraph 24 of the 2016 Policy Address states that "the Government plans to increase the admission quotas of the Design Incubation Programme.  From this year, pilot measures will be rolled out over three years to boost promotion of local fashion design and brands, provide technical training and support for the trade and launch the Fashion Incubation Programme."

     As regards the closure of the cloth bazaar, the options that the Government has offered to the affected cloth hawkers include relocation to the Tung Chau Street Market in the same district, which is two streets away from the existing cloth bazaar, with a view to allowing the licensed or eligible unlicensed cloth hawkers to continue with their business operations in a cluster in Sham Shui Po.  This would to a certain extent continue to facilitate procurement of cloth by industry practitioners and students taking courses in fashion design as production materials for their fashion design.

Ends/Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:18