Furious landlord takes on hawker

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 October, 2011, 12:00am


A news-stand operator who has been working on the same pitch in Central for almost three decades is an 'incorrigible' obstructor, according to a building owner who is mounting a legal challenge against a government decision not to revoke the operator's hawker licence.

In a writ filed with the High Court, Inglory, the owner of Luen Shing Building in Queen's Road Central, outside which the stall sits, alleges that years of obstruction have caused it losses of more than HK$9 million.

Inglory claims licensed hawker Tang Kwai-kiu has been extending her stall illegally on a pavement in front of the building. The writ describes Tang as a 'recalcitrant' and 'incorrigible' offender, claiming she has made no improvements to her news-stand despite being prosecuted by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for obstruction offences more than 26 times between June 2008 and February this year.

The document says those prosecutions do not include another 74 oral warnings issued to her.

Tang said she found out about the threat of eviction only when told by the media yesterday.

'I am willing to move if there is a place for us, but the owner has not approached us to complain about or discuss the matter,' said Tang, 55, who started the stall in 1983. Inglory acquired the building in 1987.

'We have shrunk our stall size by more than half, but the prosecutions have gone on non-stop since 1987.' She said the booth brought in about HK$8,000 a month for her family.

Court records show Tang has a licence under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance to operate a news-stand with a designated area in the front of the building.

The paper says Inglory made two complaints in 2009 and last year to the Ombudsman, who found the department's follow-up on Tang's obstruction ineffective and asked it to consider cancelling her licence.

Inglory's lawyers wrote to the director of food and environmental hygiene on June 24, also urging him to revoke her licence. Inglory said the department's repeated prosecutions were no more than 'superficial' and 'half-hearted'. In reply, the director refused to revoke Tang's right to run the stand because the department did not have any policy to take away a hawker's licence based on obstruction-related convictions.

The writ says: '[Tang] has demonstrated by her conduct over the years past that she is determined to flout the law, no doubt motivated by her own selfish interest and the fact that it is far more profitable for her to contravene rather than obey the law.'

It says the director is empowered to revoke Tang's licence as she has violated conditions attached to the permit to hawk. Inglory wants the court to quash the director's decision and order him to revoke her licence.