Officials must take action to curb street vendors' obstructions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 October, 2009, 12:00am

As a regular visitor to Hong Kong, I cannot believe that business owners are openly defying officials whose responsibility it is to try to ensure that these businesses operate within the appropriate laws. These regulations are designed to ensure the safety of the public.

For example, just go to the street markets of Mong Kok. You will see a stream of inspectors from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department making their daily rounds. The officers seek the co-operation of the licensed street vendors to ensure their stalls and equipment and products are within the specified areas of their licensed premises.

These officials remind operators who have gone beyond their boundaries to obey the law.

As soon as the officers have left, the operators move their stuff beyond licensed boundaries again. Officials are being treated like a laughing stock.

I was in Aberdeen one day this month. The footpaths there are very narrow. A team of food and environmental hygiene inspectors approached some stalls. The stall owners just laughed as they approached.

Even the officers had to walk on the road because the pavements were choked with the vendors' goods.

These are legal rights of way for pedestrians, but it is extremely difficult for them to use the pavements.

There are also commuters who are waiting on these pavements for taxis, buses and minibuses and this makes things worse.

Pedestrians have no choice but to walk on the roads.

These are two-lane roads and are dangerous for pedestrians, especially the elderly and children.

If pedestrians cannot walk on public footpaths, then the government must take legal action against shop owners who are causing an obstruction.

Public safety must never be compromised.

Unless there is a specified public mall with vendors legally entitled to be there during specified operating hours, legal action must be taken by the Hong Kong administration and its relevant departments.

Chris H. H. Lim, Blakehurst, Australia