Prosecution of elderly hawker reviewed after public uproar

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 August, 2010, 12:00am

Officials are reviewing a prosecution against an elderly woman hawker after the case drew fierce criticism from the public.

The 74-year-old has sold nail clippers, combs and sewing kits in front of a money exchange shop in Hong Ning Road, Kwun Tong, for years. She earns about HK$50 a day, which helps to support her husband.

On Tuesday morning, officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department issued her with a summons for hawking without a licence, and obstruction. People who witnessed the incident said she had not been warned first, which is the usual policy.

At one point, the woman, who suffers from hypertension and recently had surgery for a cataract, got down on her knees and begged the officers for mercy. She said she had already been fined HK$500 for illegal hawking last month.

A 70-year-old man who was passing by was annoyed by what was going on. He argued that the woman should be given another chance. A tussle broke out when he was ignored and he was arrested and charged for common assault and obstructing a public officer in the execution of her duty. A woman officer was slightly injured and sent to hospital.

The department has been flooded with angry calls following media reports of the incident yesterday.

A department spokesman said it would consider whether it was right to go ahead with the prosecution if defects were found in the process. He said a report had been submitted and the department was studying it.

Under a guideline issued in 2001, hawker control officers are supposed to first issue a warning and only prosecute if this is ignored.