Judge denies firm's bid to eject hawker
A property company has lost its legal battle over a newspaper hawker who it says has cost it HK$9.4 million by taking up more space than she is allowed outside a building in Central.
Court of First Instance judge Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon dismissed Inglory's judicial review of the Environmental Hygiene Department's refusal to cancel the hawker licence of Tang Kwai-kiu, who was described by the company as an 'incorrigible obstructer'.
Inglory, which owns the Luen Shing building in Queens Road Central, took the matter to court after the department refused to take Tang's licence even though it had prosecuted her for breaching regulations 26 times between June 2008 and February of this year, and gave her 74 oral warnings over the same period.
Inglory said the fact the stall took up more than its fair share of pavement had made the property less attractive to potential tenants, costing it HK$9.4 million in lost rental income over the years.
It bought the building in 1987, four years after Tang opened her newsstand.
The court heard that Inglory had made repeated complaints to the department since 2008, and had also complained to the Office of the Ombudsman about the department's handling of the matter. It described the department's actions as 'superficial, half-hearted and futile'.
But Lam, in his judgment, said the department's decision not to cancel Tang's licence was reasonable because it was based on the fact that the hawker had since made improvements.
Lam said that an offer by the department to relocate the stand, which Tang had rejected, could not be taken as a tacit admission that the location was not suitable for running a newsstand. Rather, Lam said, it was a 'gesture of compromise'.
Tang, who was not a party to the case and was working at her stall yesterday, said she was happy about the ruling but remained concerned that Inglory would continue to complain to the department and the police.
'If they had suffered HK$9 million in losses, their disturbing acts would have caused me [to lose] HK$6 million,' Tang said half-jokingly as she packed up newspapers yesterday.
'They are such a big enterprise, they can destroy our business easily. We're only ordinary people running a humble store, trying to make a living. We can't fight them really.
'I hope the matter will end now and I can continue to run my stall. After all, I am not robbing [the firm] of anything. I just want to run my business without any trouble.'
Newspaper vendors have long been part of the street scene, but their numbers have declined in recent years, from 670 in 2006 to 558 in 2010.
They have seen a growing number of convenience stores taking their business, and conflicts with the landlords of nearby buildings are not uncommon.