(SCMP, June 27, 2003) By Chan Siu-sin Tempers flared yesterday as cleanup teams fanned out across Hong Kong to enforce tough new laws aimed at stamping out litterbugs. By 4pm, 102 $1,500 fixed penalty notices had been dished out to people for littering, spitting and stubbing out cigarette butts on the street by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department alone. The action is part of Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's post-Sars Team Clean initiative. But as teams of officials from the hygiene and several other departments moved to impose the $1,500 fines - more than double the previous $600 fines - they encountered stiff resistance from the public. One man caught littering in Cheung Sha Wan tried to run away but passed out from exhaustion and had to be taken to hospital. He was rewarded on release with a fine. The reaction of litterbugs to the new legislation varied, but tears and rage were not uncommon. After being fined, an angry Filipina maid said: 'The fine is too much. I only earn $3,000 and now I have to pay a fine of $1,500. How much money is left for me?' In addition to inspectors from seven government departments, a team of 40 plainclothes hygiene department officers were mobilised to catch litterbugs from as early as 4am. Four areas were targeted in yesterday's littering crackdown: Cheung Sha Wan, Sheung Shui, Yuen Long and Central. By lunchtime, 50 notices had been issued. In Sheung Shui's Fu Hing Street, where 10 plainclothes officers had been prowling for litterbugs since 7am, about 15 people were caught in three hours. Wong Chi-pui, 19, a truck worker who was planning to take a taxi, was surrounded by several plainclothes officers after he dropped a cigarette butt on to the road. 'There are no trash bins along the streets. I want to take a taxi so where should I put the butt? Should I bring it home? Dumping the butt costs me $1,500 and smoking in a taxi costs me a fine of $5,000. I have no other options,' said Mr Wong, who earns $300 a day. 'A fine of $600 is enough. Why should the government increase it to $1,500? Can't they use other ways such as compulsory social service as part of the punishments? They probably think Hong Kong people are very rich.' But he said he would not risk another fine by littering again. Lee Shu-hi, 32, was caught dropping his cigarette butt into a flower bed while speaking on his mobile phone. 'Many people dump cigarette butts on the ground every day,' he said. 'Why don't they punish them? The plainclothes inspectors were hiding to put me in a trap while I accidentally dropped the butt when I was on the phone. 'Dumping butts in flower beds is different from littering the ground as it does not affect the environment.' A litterer who dumped a cigarette butt into a drain, who only gave his surname, Yu, said he had not known about the new penalty. 'I am illiterate and just came back from Shenzhen. I didn't know that dumping a butt into a drain was an offence,' he said. 'Whether the fine is $1,500 or $100,000, I don't have money to pay the fine. Putting me in jail will be better - at least I have food and a place to stay,' said the unemployed 42-year-old. Inspectors had to call police for assistance when two litterbugs in Sheung Shui refused to hand over their identity cards, with one screaming abuse at the officers and press photographers taking his picture. Chung Kwok-leung, chairman of the Hawker Control Officers' Union, said the department should give more training and support to frontline staff to make their job easier by clarifying their powers. Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping, during his inspection of a Lam Tin black spot, said the action showed the government's determination to enforce the law. In response to criticism of the heavy fines, Mr Ho said everyone should obey the law.