Hawkers say proposed Tin Shui Wai market needs careful planning

Hawkers in Tin Shui Wai say the government's market proposal needs to be carefully planned with them to ensure it puts locals' interests first

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2012, 2:28am

Tin Shui Wai doesn't need a tourist trap that mirrors popular hawker areas across the city, but a market that caters to local needs, community members say.

They were speaking after the government proposed on Saturday to establish a flea market in the troubled new town that it said would provide business opportunities and cheaper basic goods for poor residents.

"We don't want a cookie-cutter market. We want a market with unique local colour," hawker Liu Chiu-sum said.

The Home Affairs Bureau said yesterday that the market "will not target mainland tourists".

But local groups worry that the market, to be run by the non-profit Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, will not benefit the community if not planned properly and say the government should involve locals in the planning.

"In general, we welcome the idea, but it needs to be planned right - together with the community," said Athena Wong Wing-chi, a social worker with the Community Development Alliance.

The proposed market will offer 200 stalls at low rents on a 38,000 sq ft plot of land.

Liu, who trades at the town's popular but unauthorised dawn market and belongs to the Tin Shui Wai Hawkers Concern Group, said it was the first time the government and Tung Wah had set up a flea market.

"I hope they'll take heed of local wisdom and adopt our suggestions," he said, adding that the proposed "cheap" rents of HK$800 to HK$1,000 would still be too much for many of the 80-odd sellers who operate the dawn market while constantly dodging hawker-control officers.

Fellow trader Lo Yim-fong and some of the hawkers also work as farmers. Lo said: "We only sell produce for two hours in the morning and maybe a bit at night. I earn perhaps HK$3,000 to HK$4,000 a month. I cannot afford to pay for a stall [all] day."

Suggestions being put forward including operating stalls on a "parking meter" system, where registered hawkers pay for the number of hours they need and leave the spot for someone else to take up at other times.

Other ideas include designating space to park small carts and bicycles, as well as storage areas.

"We hope to sell our things as cheaply as possible, as our community isn't rich and people don't earn much," said clothes hawker Lam Sau-ying, who earns HK$8 to HK$10 for each piece. "I earn enough to get by. I just want to give to the community, so I don't mind earning a few dollars less - it's good for everyone."

Liu said the dawn market succeeded because it was community-based, and people forged relationships through it. The government must ensure that tradition was kept, while giving priority to local hawkers and fulfilling local needs, Liu said.