A legal way out for the egg-waffles man
Elderly waffle maker Ng Yuk-fai has proved the maxim that to make an omelette you need to break a few eggs.
After being prosecuted six times this year for illegal hawking, the 74-year-old was yesterday told by the food and health chief that the government would help him find a way to carry on his business within the law.
As an internet army of 4,000 signed up to a Facebook group in his support, Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said he was sympathetic towards the hawker who has been dubbed the 'old egg-waffles man' by his customers in Tai Hang.
'He seems to be determined to continue working instead of getting Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. I find this virtue respectable,' Chow said. The health minister said it was up to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to ensure food safety and act against illegal activity.
'We would like to give him suggestions on locations, such as wet market stalls, where he can operate legally,' Chow said. Licences for hawkers to sell food on the street have not been issued in Hong Kong since the 1970s.
Ng, who was prosecuted for the sixth time on Sunday and had his cart confiscated, was unavailable to respond to the government's offer last night.
Despite public anticipation, he did not reopen his stall after making a new cart. Ng went to see a doctor in the morning with fellow egg-waffle maker Eric Chiang. Then he treated Chiang to a meal, and failed to show up at his small wooden house.
He also refused to pocket the HK$860 donation raised by supporters, instead giving it to a Chinese University fund for Japanese earthquake survivors, Chiang said.
His absence disappointed dozens of people who visited Ng's home opposite the Rosedale on the Park hotel. Several were fans of his egg waffles and visitors to the nearby Central Library.
One was Billy Chan who runs a shopping website Baby Bamboo. 'We would like to offer group purchases of Ng's waffles on the site,' he said.
Eastern district councillor Tsang Kin-shing, also known as the 'Bull', stopped by in the hope of helping the man fight his court case. The hawker will appear in Eastern Court tomorrow.
'I received a call from an enthusiast, which I will not name ... we would like to arrange a lawyer for Ng and to help him pay a fine if necessary,' he said.
One person wrote a letter to all lawmakers demanding that they condemn the hawker for his law-breaking behaviour.
'If he continues with his illegal hawking after a prosecution, it would be reasonable for authorities to prosecute him 10 times in 10 days. If people's support can rationalise law-breaking behaviour, is Hong Kong still a city ruled by law?' the writer asked.