Lack of co-ordination to blame: councillors
The lack of co-ordination between the housing and hygiene authorities has been blamed for turning Tin Shui Wai into a haunt for illegal hawkers, Yuen Long district councillors said yesterday.
The street hawking problem has been a regular item on the agendas of the district council's environmental improvement committee meetings.
One problem, they say, is that Housing Department officers handle illegal hawkers within public estate areas, but when hawkers are on the streets outside estates, they are policed by Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers.
District councillor Zachary Wong Wai-yin, of the Democratic Party, said: 'What has made the problem worse is that the Housing Department has privatised the management of most of its public estates and those estate managers are not housing officers and they do not have the power to prosecute illegal hawkers.'
The open areas near Tin Yiu Estate, Tin Heng Estate, Tin Shui Estate and Tin Yan Estate, where yesterday's death occurred, are notorious hawker black spots.
Streets are often clustered with cooked food stalls at lunchtime and in the evening. Not all hawkers are unlicensed, but licensed hawkers sometimes set up makeshift stalls on pavements, obstructing pedestrians.
Councillor Fung Choi-yuk, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, urged the two departments to conduct better co-ordinated operations to chase away hawkers.
'There could be as many as 50 hawkers selling various kinds of things at one time along a pavement,' said Ms Fung.
Her colleague, Chow Wing-kan, added that many hawkers were jobless local residents.
Tin Shui Wai is widely regarded as a 'poor' district, where most residents are unskilled or new migrants.
Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming, chairman of the Legislative Council food safety and environmental hygiene panel, called on officials to give better training of frontline staff. 'A routine anti-hawking raid could turn into a situation if it is not handled properly,' he said.