Only one in 10 Lunar New Year stallholders report criminal threats and damage to police, fearing possible revenge, a survey has found.
The study, by the Hong Kong Community Development Network, a non-profit organisation helping low-income groups, polled 128 stallholders at three fairs - Victoria Park, Mongkok and Tsuen Wan - this month.
It found 77 stallholders, or 60 per cent, had been the victims of crime, including demands for payment of protection money. But only seven of the victims reported the cases to police.
James Lung Wai-man, chairman of the group, warned there was a danger of such crimes emerging at other fairs in Hong Kong and demanded that the police set up counters at each district fair.
'With a police presence, stallholders could get police help immediately. Also a police presence would frighten criminals away.'
Mr Lung said many victims had not contacted police because the money taken ranged between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars.
'They were afraid of running into trouble over such a small amount of money. Some just paid the protection fees and asked the gangs not to come back,' he said, adding that he knew two stallholders who had paid $500 and $1,000.
The Victoria Park and Mongkok fairs were the main trouble spots, with stallholders admitting 54 and 15 cases respectively, the survey reported.
Seventy of the 77 cases involved theft and the remaining seven included two cases of vandalism and two of protection money being demanded.
One victim, Wilson Chu Kin-kong, said his toy stall had been attacked by five gangsters after he had a row with the adjacent stall owner who had placed his goods in front of Mr Chu's stall.
Mr Chu, who reported the incident to police, said his left foot had been injured when he tried to avoid being hit by a hammer.
A police spokeswoman said there had been at least six reports of theft at the Victoria Park fair but no reports had been received from Tsuen Wan.
'Police are patrolling all fairs in Hong Kong. The manpower deployment depends on how big the crowd is,' she said, adding that the police would consider the suggestion of setting up counters inside fairs.