Strict enforcement of hygiene rules is urged

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 May, 2003, 12:00am

Legislators fear the number of prosecutions for minor offences will slowly drop off

The hygiene points system for public estates will fail if those responsible for enforcing it are too lenient, a legislator warned yesterday.

Legislator Michael Mak Kwok-fung, also deputy chairman of Legco's health services panel, said the government should step up enforcement by ensuring that officers pursued offenders in teams. One of the members should take pictures as evidence. 'This is one way to avoid one-to-one confrontations, when offenders can easily resist prosecution,' Mr Mak said. One way the government could stop people from drying clothes in public areas 'would be [to] simply confiscate the clothes [without approaching the offenders],' he said.

The call for strict enforcement came after Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced the hygiene point system as one of the initiatives in the Team Clean project on Thursday.

Points are deducted for 19 types of offences. More serious ones include burning wax in public areas, throwing objects from tall buildings and urinating in public places. Public housing tenants face being evicted if they accrue 16 points in two years. Tenants are encouraged to inform on errant neighbours.

While Mr Mak agreed that the campaign had positive objectives, he was concerned that the number of residents being penalised may drop off in time.

'This can happen with minor offences like placing dripping flower pots on balconies,' he said.

'Prosecutors might just back down, as well as many housing estate managers who are known for their laxity.' He said that the government should also include vandalism as one of the offences, given the problem of teenagers drawing graffiti on walls in public housing estates.

Legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan urged the public to have more confidence in the points system.

'We should not think that Hong Kong people are stubborn,' he said. 'I am optimistic that people will develop awareness of hygiene as they see more neighbours being prosecuted and evicted.'

Mr Cheung argued that the government should give the offenders a chance to redeem their points by doing community service. 'Traffic rule offenders can regain points so why can't litterbugs?' he said.

Legislator Frederick Fung Kin-kee, also a district councillor in Shamshuipo, said he was concerned that the point system would fail if it was poorly publicised.

Mr Fung also said that the government should better define who to hold responsible for an offence.

'You can't just evict a family because one of them spits three times,' he said. 'Losing tenancy is just like a form of capital punishment to these residents.'