Hawkers seek more licences to ease poverty

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2007, 12:00am

Profits of city's busy markets not reaching remote areas, say activists

Groups of traders have called for hawking licences to be reissued to people on low incomes or without jobs living in remote districts, but not to those who want to start businesses at open markets in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island.

Speaking at a Legislative Council heritage conservation subcommittee meeting yesterday, principal assistant secretary Francis Ho of the Food and Health Bureau said the government was reviewing its policy on hawkers.

'The review has just been started. We hope that we will have a preliminary view on the issue by the middle of next year after conducting consultation,' Mr Ho said.

A motion by unionist legislator Wong Kwok-hing raised a debate that will be discussed today in Legco on how to develop hawking and bazaar economic activities and revitalise the on-street economy in remote new towns.

Audrey Eu Yuet-mee of the Civic Party has proposed to amend the motion by adding 'resuming licensing for hawkers'.

The chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Hawkers' Associations, Tsang Kam-ming, said business had not improved despite increased trade in open markets such as Temple Street and Ladies' Market in Yau Tsim Mong District.

'Competition is very keen, and it is very hard to do business now,' Mr Tsang said. 'There is really not much room for new blood to come and survive in the industry. Issuing new licences for people to do business in open markets in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island will make the situation worse. We strongly object to that.

'But we have no objection if the government wants to issue licences to people who are illegally working as hawkers in Tin Shui Wai and Tung Chung, where unemployment problems are serious.'

The government stopped issuing fixed pitch licences to hawkers in the 1970s.

Now, once the holder of a hawker's licence dies, only his immediate relations can inherit the licence.

Mr Tsang said he was aware that the Urban Renewal Authority and the government were studying how to conserve the open market in Graham Street.

'I know that some have suggested reissuing hawker licences to people who want to start businesses at the market,' he said. 'But I doubt that newcomers can really survive. Open markets in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island are very competitive, and we are already facing keen competition.'

The Urban Renewal Authority said a conservation advisory panel comprising district councillors, conservation experts, hawkers and residents' representatives had been formed to study and recommend measures to conserve and revitalise the street market in the Graham Street project.

'The panel is collecting views from the community on ways to conserve and revitalise the street market,' an authority spokesman said.

David Tam Chor-kin, chairman of the Ladies' Market Hawkers, said more than 80 per cent of their customers were tourists.

A merchant called Mr Chan, who has been doing business in the market for 30 years, said: 'It is very difficult to do business now, and profits are very small.

'We do not benefit much from the solo travel scheme, as most of the products sold at our market are made in China. Our business will be hit hard if we have to deal with new competitors. We now make less than HK$10,000 a month.'

Passing trade

There are 6,300 fixed pitch hawking licences at present

The number of itinerant hawking licences is 700