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LCQ18: Preservation of the characteristics of the hawking culture
     Following is a question by the Hon Doreen Kong and a written reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (April 26):

     There are views that the hawking culture has a history of over a century in Hong Kong, and hawking is a cultural characteristic as well as a key traditional tourism asset of Hong Kong. Regarding the preservation of the characteristics of the hawking culture, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of valid itinerant hawker licences as at last month, and set out in the table below a breakdown by the type of goods being hawked;
Type of goods being hawked Number of licences
General merchandise  
Roasted chestnuts  
Roasted sweet potatoes  
Preserved fruit  
Others (set out by the type of goods being hawked)  
(2) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of licensed itinerant hawkers selling roasted chestnuts and roasted sweet potatoes on the street last month; of the median and average age of such licensed hawkers, the number of times they were prosecuted by summons and had their trolleys confiscated within the past 12 months, and the total amount of fines involved;
(3) as it is learnt that most licensed itinerant hawkers are elderly people and the number of hawkers is decreasing, in particular, the remaining number of hawkers who sell roasted chestnuts is only less than 20, of the policies put in place by the Government to ensure the sustainability of the itinerant hawking trade; and
(4) whether the authorities will consider establishing a sound licensing regime for hawker bazaars and formulating long-term conservation and support policies to revitalise and develop the hawking culture, so that this traditional culture can be preserved and passed on?

     The public has different views about hawkers and hawking activities, some people find on-street trading by itinerant hawkers convenient and is part of the local characteristics; while quite some others consider on-street trading activities are prone to cause obstruction, environmental nuisance or even hazards relating to hygiene. In the past three years, the Government has on average, received 196 complaint cases about licensed itinerant hawkers each year. 
     In order to balance the needs and expectations of various parties, as well as to manage the risks of environmental hygiene and fire etc, the Government has been striving to regulate the hawking activities of licensed hawkers and taking appropriate enforcement actions against illegal hawking. Our reply to the Hon Doreen Kong's question is as follows:

(1) As at March 31, 2023, the number of itinerant hawkers licenses (IHL) is 295. Each IHL holder can apply to sell up to four types of commodities at the same time. Breakdown of the number of IHL by the types of commodities allowed to be sold is at Annex.

(2) As at March 31, 2023, there were a total of 118 IHL holders allowed to sell roast chestnuts and/or baked sweet potatoes over the territory. The respective median and average of their ages were 79 and 79.6.  
     The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) would take an empathetic approach as far as possible in taking enforcement actions against licensed itinerant hawkers when they violate the license conditions in operating their pitches, such as when they have made hawking offences or their hawking activities have caused obstruction to pedestrians. In general, for cases in which the hawking activities have caused obstruction to pedestrians, FEHD officers would give warning before taking enforcement actions. Enforcement actions would be taken only if the verbal warning is not heeded. There was no prosecution case involving confiscation of handcarts of licensed itinerant hawker (including selling of roast chestnuts and/or baked sweet potatoes) last year.

(3) and (4) The Government has been regulating the hawking activities of licensed hawkers through a licensing regime, and has launched measures to promote the normal turnover of licensed hawkers and to support their operation as needed. There are broadly two types of hawker licences, which are fixed pitch hawker licences and IHL. As at March 31, 2023, there were 5 200 fixed pitch hawker licences and, as mentioned above, 295 IHLs of which 118 were allowed to sell roast chestnuts and/or baked sweet potatoes.
     On how to allow the continued operation of hawking activities while balancing the requests of various parties, the Government would reassign vacant fixed hawker pitches so that itinerant hawkers can choose to move to operate at on-street fixed hawker pitches or hawker bazaar, and eligible members of the public would also be given the opportunity to join the hawking industry. In this regard, FEHD allocated 435 vacant fixed hawker pitches in 2019 for application by four categories of applicants, including licensed itinerant hawkers, and allocated 105 vacant fixed hawker pitches again in mid-2022. As at mid-April 2023, FEHD had issued a total of 523 new fixed pitch hawker licences. The department will continue to consider opening applications for vacant fixed hawker pitches to qualified persons in the future. Under the above policy, the Government has no plan to issue new IHL at the moment.
     In addition, the Government has supported licensed hawkers in their ongoing operations through measures such as the five-year Hawker Assistance Scheme, which was launched in June 2013 with an allocated funding of $230 million, to improve the fire safety design and electricity supply of hawker pitches. Under the scheme, the overall layout of the hawker pitches in the area has been improved, with pitches near the emergency exits of buildings or emergency vehicle lanes relocated to provide for safer operation. The scheme has provided hawker pitches with a brand new façade that suits the operational needs of hawkers and provides a more sustainable environment for their business operation. FEHD has launched a dedicated webpage and a series of promotional videos titled One Stall, One Story with six short films each telling the story of a licensed hawker pitch and 10 interesting stories about the development of hawker bazaars to promote the culture and development story of local hawkers in order to help preserve the hawking culture (Note).

     The Government will continue to listen to and consider the views of various sectors regarding the management of hawkers, and introduce measures to support licensed hawkers with due regard to the actual circumstances at the time.

Note: The relevant website is at www.streetbazaars.gov.hk/tc_chi/intro.html
Ends/Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:50
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