Let hawkers use vacant stalls, says professor
Unionist legislators and academics have urged the government to allow hawkers to trade at empty stalls in wet markets and on abandoned government land.
The call came after 65-year-old hawker Lo Kong-ching drowned last Monday when he jumped into a river in Tin Shui Wai while fleeing a raid by hawker control officers.
Wong Hung, assistant professor of social work at Chinese University, and unionist lawmaker Chan Yuen-han said yesterday that such an arrangement would help to reduce poverty.
'Many people are still unemployed and they do not want live on the government dole,' Professor Wong said. 'Why can't the government give them a chance to make their own living by being hawkers?'
Unionist lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing cited empty stalls at Java Road Wet Market in North Point and government land near the North Point ferry pier as examples of suitable trading venues.
'Those stalls have been empty for seven to eight years. The government should rent out those stalls to hawkers at discounted rates so that they can do business there,' he said.
Most empty stalls and abandoned land were found in old districts, and the government could regenerate these areas by allowing hawkers to do business there.
'Crowds will then be attracted to these areas. The government should try to help hawkers develop their business in a clean and organised way, not drive them out of business,' Professor Wong said.
Hawkers should be handled inter-departmentally instead of only by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
'The government believes it is a hygiene issue. But it is a social, economic and even cultural issue,' he said. 'Buying things and food from hawkers is part of our culture.'
Professor Wong estimated the number of hawkers had decreased from 16,000 in 1986 to fewer than 4,000 last year.