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LCQ3: Cooked food hawker licences
     Following is a question by the Hon Tommy Cheung and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (March 22):

     At present, the succession and transfer of various categories of hawker licences are subject to stringent restrictions.  It has been reported that a noodle shop, which had been in operation for 31 years in the cooked food stalls (commonly known as "cooked food kiosks") in Kwong Fuk Estate, had to close down temporarily last month because, inter alia, the hawker licence concerned could not be immediately succeeded by the son of the deceased licensee.  This case has aroused public concern over the prospect of cooked food hawkers and the gradual disappearance of such category of stalls with special characteristics, which mainly serve residents in the neighbourhood.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current number of cooked food or light refreshment hawker licences issued; whether the authorities will relax the relevant requirements to grant, apart from the spouse of a licensee, other immediate family members and the business partner(s) of a licensee the right to succeed and to be transferred such category of licences so that such stalls can continue to operate in-situ; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) of the respective current numbers of vacant stalls in various cooked food hawker bazaars and cooked food kiosks; whether the authorities will consider renovating and consolidating the long-standing vacant stalls among these stalls, as well as identifying other sites for setting up new stalls, for bidding by people who start up small businesses, and providing them with support; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether the authorities will (i) formulate a long-term development policy for cooked food hawker bazaars, cooked food kiosks and on‑street hawker stalls by making reference to overseas experience and adopting the perspective of a facilitator and not a regulator, (ii) revamp such stalls by allocating resources, employing new technology and adopting the design principles which aim at making such stalls aesthetic, safe, hygienic, environment-friendly and functional, and (iii) launch overseas publicity and promotional campaigns to attract tourists to patronise such stalls; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

     The cooked food hawker licences issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) are officially known as the Fixed-Pitch (Cooked Food or Light Refreshment) Hawker Licences, which are divided into three categories according to the locations of the cooked food stalls.  The first category relates to on-street cooked food stalls (commonly known as "Dai Pai Dong").  The second category relates to stalls located in cooked food hawker bazaars (CFHBs) while the third one has to do with stalls located in public housing estates (commonly known as a "cooked food kiosk"), some of which are managed by the Housing Department (HD) and some by private owners.  Unlike applicants for the first and second categories of cooked food hawker licences, applicants for licences in respect of stalls in "cooked food kiosks" are required to sign a tenancy agreement with the owner for the stall concerned prior to FEHD's issuance of a hawker licence for operating the stall in a "cooked food kiosk".  According to FEHD's understanding, after the licensee concerned in the "cooked food kiosk" in Kwong Fuk Estate of Tai Po passed away, the family member(s) of the licensee did not reach an agreement with the owner concerned on the tenancy of the stall and decided to cease the business as a result.
     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows.
(1) As at the end of 2016, a total of 161 Fixed-Pitch (Cooked Food or Light Refreshment) Hawker Licences were issued by FEHD.
     Since 1972, under normal circumstances, the Government has stopped issuing new hawker licences including Fixed-Pitch (Cooked Food or Light Refreshment) Hawker Licences.

     If a Fixed-Pitch (Cooked Food or Light Refreshment) Hawker Licence was issued before May 21, 2010, the licensee's spouse will be allowed to apply for succession or transfer of the licence when the licensee cannot continue to operate his or her business on grounds of death, old age or other reasons. 

     As for "Dai Pai Dongs", if a "Dai Pai Dong" is to be closed down because of the licensee's death, old age or other reasons, under the condition that the licensee's spouse gives up applying for succession or transfer of the licence, and that other immediate family members (i.e. parents or children) or other interested operators with genuine grounds apply for succession or transfer of the licence, FEHD will consider allowing the succession or transfer arrangements if the relevant District Council (DC) supports the continuation of that "Dai Pai Dong"'s operation in situ. 

     As regards a "cooked food kiosk", if the person concerned has signed a tenancy agreement in respect of the stall with the owner and is eligible for applying for a Fixed-Pitch (Cooked Food or Light Refreshment) Hawker Licence, in general, FEHD will issue a new licence to that person to operate at the relevant stall.

     Given possible obstruction and environmental hygiene problems caused to the neighbourhood, on-street hawking activities have been consistently discouraged.  Coupling with the well-developed retail trade and the change in shopping habits of the general public nowadays, FEHD has followed the said principle to implement the related policies.  With effect from May 21, 2010, for all newly issued hawker licences, no succession or transfer arrangement is allowed.
(2) and (3) As at the end of 2016, there are 75 vacant fixed pitches in the CFHBs managed by FEHD and no vacant stalls in "Dai Pai Dongs".  As for HD's six housing estates with "cooked food kiosks", open tender exercises are being conducted for three vacant stalls in one estate.  In another housing estate, its "cooked food kiosk" is vacant in preparation for redevelopment.
     CFHBs under FEHD are meant to serve as a transitional arrangement and hence are not built in the first place for long-term use.  The Audit Commission and the Public Accounts Committee made recommendations in April and July 2015 respectively regarding the management of FEHD's public cooked food markets, including formulating exit plans for CFHBs with high vacancy rates for releasing land for redevelopment.  Between 2015 and 2016, FEHD has closed three CFHBs.   FEHD will continue to follow up the formulation of exit plans for CFHBs with high vacancy rates, having regard to their business viability, the needs of the community, resource availability and competing priorities.  For individual CFHBs with business viability, FEHD will arrange refurbishment works to improve their operating environment.
     Regarding the refurbishment and consolidation of "Dai Pai Dongs", the Central and Western DC (C&WDC) supported in 2010 all the 10 applications of transfer of licences to licensees’ children, on condition that applicants met the requirements stipulated by FEHD, which included proper disposal of sewage, suitable power and mains water supply, and fuel etc.  Besides, the Drainage Services Department installed sewer manholes connecting to underground sewers for each "Dai Pai Dong", and the Highways Department conducted resurfacing works. 

     For the "cooked food kiosks" under HD, HD advises that the relevant refurbishment works were completed in 2013.  Repair and maintenance works will continue to be conducted according to actual needs.

     The Subcommittee on Hawker Policy under the Legislative Council Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene was established in 2014-15 to review hawker policy.  We have followed up the recommendations made by the Subcommittee, including:
(i) continuing to implement the assistance scheme for fixed-pitch hawker areas to minimise the fire risks and improve the outlook of fixed pitch areas.  We will also review whether or not to issue new on-street hawker pitch licences;
(ii) consulting DCs on matters related to issuing licences to tradesmen with characteristics reminiscent of our local culture and heritage.  Examples include cobblers, watch repairers and Chinese facial cosmeticians, etc.;
(iii) subject to the support of the relevant DCs, the Government may consider issuing new "Dai Pai Dong" licences on a pilot basis.  The Government will review the licensing conditions according to the review on the effectiveness of the pilot cases and the public's views, including the views of the relevant DCs;
(iv) we are considering converting one existing public market with relatively low let-out rate into an off-street cooked food centre on a pilot basis; and
(v) the Government adopts a positive attitude towards specific proposals on bazaars put by individuals/organisations in the community.  If the relevant bodies have secured suitable sites and obtained support from the relevant community and DCs, and provided that public order and safety, food safety and environmental hygiene are upheld, public passageways are not obstructed, we stand ready to facilitate liaison with relevant Government Bureaux and Departments regarding the use of the sites.
     The Government has been promoting through the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) local delicacies to visitors and international media via various channels.  The HKTB will continue with its work in this regard.  If there are new features with merit for tourism promotion introduced to "Dai Pai Dongs" or cooked food centres, the HKTB will promote these eateries to the visitors.
Ends/Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:48
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