Elderly cleaner welcomes Hong Kong government move to drop fine for dumping water in a Wan Chai drain

The decision to impose a HK$1,500 fine on the worker caused a public outcry, prompting her employer to offer to pay the money

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 7:23pm

An elderly cleaner has welcomed a decision by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to drop a fine against her for dumping waste water into a drain in Wan Chai.

The department said on Tuesday the decision to withdraw the penalty notice was made after consulting the Department of Justice and considering the background of 71-year-old Zhou Zhuan.

But it added: “Our officer issued the fixed penalty ticket on that day after collecting sufficient evidence which showed she had disposed of waste in public.”

It reiterated that it was an offence to dump waste, including sewage, in a public place. And it said it would continue to enforce the law.

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“I feel more comfortable and at ease now after they told me the fine had been cancelled,” Zhou told the Post on Wednesday.

Zhou said officers from the department called her at around 6pm on Tuesday telling her the fine had been dropped.

“I couldn’t sleep at all and eat well beforehand. I wasn’t in any mood to work at all,” she said.

Zhou, who has worked for a cleaning contractor with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department at Southorn Playground for eight years, was found by a uniformed officer from the department pouring water from a bucket into a drain at the nearby rubbish collection point on Luard Road on October 24.

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

She 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 toilet in the playground, she said.

But her claim was rejected by the officer.

The image of her bursting into tears after being fined was captured by a passer-by, creating a public outcry. Some criticised the department for being merciless and targeting the elderly and low-paid woman.

Many people offered to pay the fine for her, including the company Zhou works for.

“I would like to thank all who have been treating me so kindly,” Zhou said.

The woman, who works from 3pm to 11.30pm every day, is the sole breadwinner for her and her 73-year-old husband, a recovering nasopharyngeal cancer patient.

“I have to work even if it is hard, or else I will have nothing to eat. My son is on social security, how can he give me money?” said Zhou, whose son and daughter-in-law are wheelchair-bound and have to rely on social security assistance to make a living.

Her son, Foo Yuen-wai, who won a bronze medal in a 2014 Asian Paralympic Games sailing event in South Korea, said he was glad about the news.

The winner in last year’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards also said he was grateful for the department’s understanding.

“She has been sad and stressed recently ... The money is another issue to her. She was so disturbed about breaking the law which she had never done in her life,” Foo said.