Fa Yuen Street traders to strike today

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 December, 2011, 12:00am


About 230 hawkers in Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, last night decided to strike today to oppose 'overly strict' prosecution by hawker control officers since a deadly fire killed nine people last month.

They took the decision after another dispute between officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and hawkers. Six officers decided to prosecute a fruit seller for placing goods outside the permitted area, while other hawkers said the officers had acted without giving any warning.

The dispute lasted about five hours, attracting a crowd of about 100 onlookers at one point. A man lay in the middle of the road to stop officers in a car from leaving, while a woman was suspected to have splashed water in an officer's face. One officer and a hawker were sent to hospital.

Wong Pui-ching, chairman of the Fa Yuen Street Hawker Association, said the fruit seller was about 70. Neighbouring hawkers pleaded for leniency and warnings before prosecution, but their demands were turned down by officers.

To voice their grievances against frequent prosecutions, hawkers plan to obstruct the road with their goods and stop selling today. They would continue the strike until the department compromised, Wong said.

The department issued a statement last night, saying some hawkers neglected fire safety rules, and they would continue to prosecute rule-breakers.

Relations between hawkers and the department have soured since the government proposed stricter rules over hawker control. The proposed measures follow the fire in the Fa Yuen Street market area last month, which killed nine people and injured 34.

Under the new proposal, hawkers would lose their licences if they are prosecuted or convicted six times or more within three months.

Licences would also be revoked immediately for serious offences, such as making illegal electrical connections, subletting stalls, and using false information to obtain a hawker licence.