Lunar New Year

Call for more hawker sites and food bazaars during Lunar New Year festival

Groups want the government to issue temporary licences for hawkers in 10 pedestrian-only zones and playgrounds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 3:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 3:23pm

An alliance of food hawkers and concern groups is calling on the government to set up 10 food bazaars in five districts during the Lunar New Year to prevent overcrowding in one location.

The groups suggested the government should issue temporary licences for hawkers to sell street food in 10 pedestrian-only zones and playgrounds in Kowloon East, Kowloon West, New Territories East, New Territories West and Hong Kong Island between January 28 and 30.

Health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said on Sunday the government was looking into the feasibility of setting up a food bazaar in another location after its plan for one in Mong Kok was voted down by the Yau Tsim Mong district council last week.

The government’s proposal marks their first attempt to legalise street food businesses during the festivities, after many years of tolerating them.

Lau Siu-lai, a lawmaker for the Kowloon West constituency, said it would be more realistic to organise more than one government-approved bazaar to prevent people from flooding into one area.

“If everyone crowds into Mong Kok for that one bazaar, of course the residents are going to oppose it. That’s why we should take care of the needs of most Hongkongers across the five districts,” Lau said.

Chiu Sin-ting, a spokeswoman for Supporting Grassroot Bazaar Alliance, said one possible location in Mong Kok would be to fence off a section of Portland Street between Argyle Street and Soy Street as a pedestrian-only zone between 7pm and 2am during the holidays.

The space would accommodate 60 hawkers and they should be allowed to cook on gas or electric stoves, she said. Under the government’s rejected proposal, the bazaar would accommodate 40 hawkers and only electric stoves would be allowed.

Hawkers have lined the streets of Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po for years at Lunar New Year. But in February the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department cracked down on illegal street food sellers, which triggered a night of violence in Mong Kok.

Hawker Tsang Kai-sun, who ran a stall in Kweilin Street, Sham Shui Po, for 30 years, said cooking on a gas stove was an integral part of the “street food experience”.

“It’s just not the same flavour when you cook on an electric stove. I hope the government can provide some leeway just for the holidays so everyone can have a happy Lunar New Year,” Tsang said.

Ko of the Food and Health Bureau raised concerns that cooking on a gas stove would pose a safety hazard in a crowded area like Mong Kok. He said the government was keeping an open mind to all the suggestions, but ultimately it also depended on the approval of the district council.