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LCQ13: Law enforcement actions against obstruction of public places caused by shop front extension
     Following is a question by the Hon Shiu Ka-fai and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):

     The Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness Offences) (Amendment) Ordinance 2016 (4 of 2016) (the Ordinance) has come into operation since September 24 this year.  The law enforcement officers of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) may issue fixed penalty notices to the relevant offenders in respect of shop front extension causing obstruction of public places.  The fixed penalty is $1,500.  However, quite a number of shop operators and members of the public have relayed to me that shop operators face tough operating environment due to the declining retail sales and the overly stringent law enforcement actions taken by FEHD officers.  According to the authorities, in general, where the extension of business activities beyond the confines of shops contributes to the vibrancy of the district and constitutes a distinct characteristic without posing any imminent danger to pedestrians and other road users, and subject to a consensus having been reached by the various parties concerned, the specific locations concerned may be accorded lower priorities for law enforcement or even be designated as "tolerated areas".  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) how the authorities determine whether an extension of business activities beyond the confines of shops does "contribute to the vibrancy of the district and constitute a distinct characteristic";

(2)  given that the existing tolerated areas cover only five locations, of the locations which the authorities had considered but eventually not included in the tolerated areas, and the reasons for that (set out in a table); and

(3) of the total number of complaints, received by the authorities since the implementation of the aforesaid Ordinance, from shop operators or members of the public about the law enforcement actions taken by FEHD officers, with a breakdown by nature of such complaints?



     The Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness and Obstruction) Ordinance (the Ordinance) has come into operation since September 24 this year.  A fixed penalty system is introduced as an additional enforcement tool to tackle the problem of shop front extensions (SFEs).  Under the Ordinance, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Hong Kong Police Force are empowered to, among other things, issue fixed penalty notices of $1,500 in addition to summons against SFEs involving offences on obstruction of public places under section 4A of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228).

     Following the commencement of the SFE fixed penalty system, there is visible improvement on the SFE situation and pavement access during the past two months.  In general, the public show support to the newly introduced fixed penalty system.  My answers to the respective parts of the question are as follows:
(1) and (2) Only under very exceptional circumstances could individual location be designated as a "tolerated area".  The arrangement is ad hoc in nature, and the number of such "areas" is very limited in Hong Kong.  According to past experience, the designation of an individual location as a "tolerated area" should be subject to deliberation and consensus reached among enforcement departments, other relevant departments, shop operators and/or district personalities.  Under the condition that the shop operators can exercise self-discipline by adhering to the agreed level of extension, the matter would be considered by relevant District Council (DC).  DC, representing the public opinion, is familiar with district circumstances.  It would take into account whether the SFEs at the said location could constitute distinct characteristics and contribute to the vibrancy of the district, and consider whether to support designating it as a "tolerated area" in a prudent manner.  The locations of the "tolerated areas" would also be subject to regular review of the enforcement departments, DCs and/or District Management Committees.

(3) During the period from September 24 to November 30 this year, FEHD, Home Affairs Department and District Offices have received a total of 73 complaints about FEHD's enforcement action against SFEs.  Among them, 40 cases complained about unfair or selective enforcement, 13 cases concerned attitude of individual staff, 6 complained about the stringent enforcement, and 14 cases included complaints about ineffective enforcement measures at certain locations, dissatisfaction with the "tolerated areas" arrangement and inadequate publicity work.  Enforcement departments will handle the complaints in accordance with established procedures.  They would also continue to ensure effective and consistent enforcement actions in tackling the problem of SFEs.
Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:30
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