How many warnings and how soon after should Hong Kong officers prosecute unlicensed hawkers?
Source says authorities are reviewing guidelines in the aftermath of public uproar following arrest of elderly cardboard seller
Guidelines for dealing with unlicensed hawkers in the city will be reviewed following the case of an elderly woman who was arrested for selling cardboard to a domestic helper for HK$1, a government source has said.
Under the department’s current guidelines, officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will first issue verbal warnings to hawkers selling dry non-food products if they have obstructed streets or there have been complaints against them. Prosecution will then follow if the warnings are ignored.
The review will seek to clarify definitions of unheeded verbal warnings, the source added, saying that officers usually sought to disperse elderly hawkers or those with physical disabilities first before taking action.
The move came after a 75-year-old woman, surnamed Chu, was prosecuted by the department for selling cardboard without a hawker’s licence on June 11. The charges were dropped on June 19 after a public backlash, including a protest by 30 people and a petition with more than 15,000 signatures.
“We will need to see what defines unheeded verbal warnings. Should it be repeated warnings within a day, a morning or an afternoon, or a week [before prosecution]?” the source said.
A review of the guidelines is ongoing and the department has not decided how many warnings officers should give before taking action.
According to the department, the number of complaints against unlicensed hawkers and street obstruction dropped from 14,167 in 2012 to 10,512 last year. There were 15,310 convicted cases of unlicensed hawkers last year.
Meanwhile, enforcement has been stepped up in Mong Kok against roll-up advertisement banners on streets, which are considered unauthorised displays in public places. From January to May this year, the department seized 940 banners on Sai Yeung Choi Street South and made 120 related prosecutions.