A CAMPAIGN by the Urban and Regional Councils to rid the territory of itinerant hawkers is a classic case of bureaucratic overkill. The original objectives of preserving public hygiene and avoiding dangerous overcrowding remain important. If anything, the danger of pushing pedestrians into the path of oncoming traffic has grown with the number of cars. In some areas the problem of hawker nuisance is keenly felt and controls are needed. However, there is a big difference between the regulation of a trade and an attempt to eradicate it altogether. It is not that hawkers are 'quaint' or 'romantic'. But they are not all dirty, and there is no good reason why they should not be allowed to flourish in corners for mobile stalls and wagons. They are very much part of Hong Kong life, and offer a cheap, convenient and often varied alternative to high-priced goods in increasingly homogeneous shopping malls dominated by big chains. The image of night markets and bustling street sales is a big attraction for tourists. Their disappearance would be a greater loss than either council seems to appreciate. The attack on the mobile ice-cream van business of Mr Softee shows how irrational the whole anti-hawker drive has become. This is not a move to prevent public nuisance - more a matter of ideological warfare. The bureaucrats' wrath should be directed against unlicensed pedlars who block pavements and leave dirt, not those with legitimate small business. True, the campaign is not directed at licensed hawkers with a fixed pitch. But as Hong Kong develops, there is little evidence of traditional fixed market areas being spared. The decision to let Mr Softee take its case to the Privy Council could be the turning point in stopping municipal councils killing a trade which only needs more careful regulation. Until the court rules, they should concentrate on keeping streets clean and safe, not sterile and uninviting.