Hawker incidents spur more training for officers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2006, 12:00am

Training will be provided for all 2,100 frontline hawker-control officers next month on how to handle a crisis after a hawker drowned last month while being pursued. The Health, Welfare and Food Bureau would also make public for the first time the 56 hawking black spots where hawker-control officers could prosecute illegal hawkers without verbal warnings, a government source said.

The source declined to disclose details of the training programme, which will be discussed by the Legislative Council's food safety and environmental hygiene panel today.

Widespread concerns about anti-hawker operations were raised after hawker Tony Pang, 38, was hit by a truck in March while fleeing amid the chaos that broke out when officers suddenly revealed their uniforms.

Last month, hawker Lo Kong-ching, 65, drowned when he jumped into a river in Tin Shui Wai while fleeing hawker-control officers.

The source said the government would hire crisis-management experts from the private sector to provide mandatory training for frontline officers from next month. The training would last half a day and all training would be completed by the end of the year.

The officers would be taught how to avoid clashes and ensure their personal safety and that of hawkers and passers-by. About 150 hawker-control officers were injured in the course of their duties last year.

The source said the government had arranged similar training for officers in the past but this one would provide more updated skills.

'We will use the incidents which have happened recently as examples in the training,' the source said. There are about 2,700 unlicensed hawkers and 7,700 with licences, according to government estimates. But the source said the government had stopped issuing new licences to avoid nuisances and to maintain good hygiene.

Following the two recent incidents, unionist legislators and academics have asked the government to allow hawkers to trade at empty stalls in wet markets and on abandoned government land.

But the source said this was not practical because the empty stalls were usually far from busy districts and failed to attract customers.