Hawkers stand firm on licence threat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2012, 12:00am


Hawkers remain strongly opposed to proposals that would open the way for their licences to be suspended or revoked, as a consultation period on them draws to an end.

More than 20 vendors and their supporters yesterday described the treatment of hawkers in the Fa Yuen Street market in Mong Kok by officials as harsh after the area was hit by a deadly fire almost four months ago.

Supporter Abraham Lai Ka-chun, of the Wan Chai Street Market Concern Group, suggested regular meetings between Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officials and hawkers in different districts.

'There have been arguments between frontline department officials and hawkers,' Lai said. 'Such conflicts can be avoided if both parties have better communication.'

Lai spoke at a vendors' meeting with department director Clement Leung Cheuk-man. He said later that Cheung indicated many regulations could be applied in a flexible way.

The November fire claimed nine lives, injured 34 others and destroyed dozens of stalls. The scale of the tragedy led the authorities to step up the regulation of stalls, while proposing hawkers should lose their licences if they are prosecuted or convicted at least six times within three months.

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

Fong Kam-mei, who sells baby clothes in Fa Yuen Street, pointed to the strict enforcement of stall size - three feet by four feet and 2.5 metres in height - after the blaze. She said business was bad as there was no room to display their goods properly.

'The police report on the cause of the fire is not out yet. Is it fair to punish us like this?' Fong asked. 'Some residents here feel unsafe and have been giving the government pressure, but the government cannot make us take all the responsibility.'

A department spokesman said suggestions from hawkers, residents and the district council on the regulation of fixed-pitch stalls would be considered. The consultation period ends on March 31.

Brenda Cheng So-ngor, chairwoman of the Federation of Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Hawker Associations, said she would arrange to meet Leung.

She said the federation had collected hundreds of letters from hawkers opposing the proposals.