Hong Kong unites behind 71-year-old cleaner fined HK$1,500 for pouring bucket of water into street

Woman was issued with the fine after an officer from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department saw her dumping water into a drain

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 October, 2016, 12:08am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 October, 2016, 2:07pm

The online community was abuzz on Monday over an incident involving a 71-year-old cleaner who was left devastated after she was fined HK$1,500 by hygiene authorities for allegedly dumping water on a street in Wan Chai.

The woman, Zhou Zhuan, who has worked for a cleaning contractor of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department at the Southorn Playground for eight years, was found by a uniformed officer from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department pouring water from a bucket into a drain at the nearby garbage collection spot on Luard Road on Monday morning.

Believing it was waste water, the officer issued a HK$1,500 ticket to Zhou, who earns about HK$8,300 a month.

But the cleaner explained the dumped water was not dirty and she was trying to flush it into the street to clean it. The water was left over after she cleaned a bathroom at the playground, she said.

Her claim was shunned by the officer.

The scene of her bursting into tears after being fined was captured by a passer-by. The picture was then widely circulated online.

Internet users criticised the department for being merciless and having targeted the elderly and low-paid woman. They offered to pay the fine for her. Some others however said the woman should have realised it was illegal to dump waster water publicly.

The woman later told media she was overwhelmed by the incident and almost fainted after crying so much.

But she said her boss from the company had offered to pay the fine for her, who praised her as an industrious worker.

“The company said to me I don’t have to pay, they would pay. And told me not to worry,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief on Monday night.

The woman disclosed that her husband and a son have physical disabilities. Both have poliomyelitis. Her son, Foo Yuen-wai, sailed in the 2014 Asian Paralympic Games in South Korea and won the bronze medal. He was a winner in last year’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards.

A spokesman for the department said it was an offence to dump waste, including sewage, in a public place. The department said it would learn more from the concerned officer to decide their next action.

Roy Kwong Chun-yu of the Democratic Party said the department should confirm whether it was clean or waste water. He wrote to the department to urge them to use discretion.