CHEUNG Tat-ming narrowed his eyes against the glare of the morning sun like a bounty hunter in a Wild West film scouring the horizon for signs of his prey. ''We follow the smell of smoke; often you can catch a few that way,'' he said with the wisdom of experience, rubbing the stubble on his chin. Mr Cheung is a hunter; his wilderness is Tuen Mun; his prey are the men, women, children and dogs that soil the byways and pavements of this new town. His trusty weapon is a piece of paper - summons form 1A. One of 24 foremen working out of the Regional Services Department's environmental hygiene department in Tuen Mun, Mr Cheung and his colleagues mount daily patrols to catch the town's lap sap louts in action, and bustle them into a special litter court that can slap them with a fine of up to $1,000 quicker than they can say Chun Kit-lung (the mascot, Clean Dragon). If this sounds a little terrifying to the good citizens of Tuen Mun who may have once dropped a candy wrapper, or abandoned a television set on a street corner knowing someone would remove it, then they should be thankful foreman Mr T.K. Leung has now moved on. His ability to catch up to 200 litter bugs a month are recalled with some awe by his colleagues. ''He was very hard-working, and would spend all day catching them. Mr T.K. Leung was also very brave - he would issue lots of summons against litterers,'' recalled Tuen Mun district hygiene superintendent Leung Nai-chung (no relation). After receiving an award earlier this month for his efforts, the bustling Mr T.K. Leung has moved on to other duties, like ensuring shopkeepers do not display their goods on the pavement, and making sure that construction workers do not dump debris on the streets. This does not mean Tuen Mun is about to disappear under a huge mound of soft drink tins, chrysanthemum tea packets and chocolate wrappers, at least not while Mr Cheung and his colleagues are on patrol. The Sunday Morning Post joined Mr Cheung and fellow foremen Tong Kwok-yiu and Chan Hi for a morning patrol of Tuen Mun town centre, including what were described as several ''black spots'' Only five minutes after leaving the depot, as we tut-tutted disapprovingly at a pile of broken glass, masonry and wooden partitions left on the pavement on Tuen Shun Street, the litter squad raced into action. The culprit they apprehended did not look like an outlaw, with his slight, bespectacled frame, receding hairline, shapeless trousers and anonymous, white short-sleeved shirt. Barely eight metres from a yellow metal Regco litter bin, the middle-aged man had been spotted lobbing a used tissue on the pile of building rubble. He explained weakly that there was so much litter there already his lap sap would hardly make a difference. But that cut no ice with Mr Tong, who had already asked for the culprit's identity card and was writing down details of the incident. Keeping a copy of the summons for himself, Mr Tong explained to the bewildered man he had broken bye-law number four andwould have to appear in a court where a health inspector acts as prosecutor, and where fines average $200 to $300, rising for repeat offences. Barely was the ink dry on this latest summons than the trio were in action again. An elderly man in shorts and singlet, with a face tanned to the colour of a betel nut, chose the wrong moment to expectorate loudly; his spittle had barely hit the concrete before Mr Chan was on to him, pulling out his laminated Regco card and demanding the bemused old man's ID card. The old man bristled, his skinny arms taut with anger, he jostled Mr Chan and he was about to scuttle off indignantly when Mr Chan's two colleagues bore down on him and told him in no uncertain terms to stay where he was. His summons in his hand, the old man shot off as quickly as he could, with only a hurt glance back. Mr Cheung confessed later that only the police had a right to have a look at an ID card. Members of the Regco litter team could only ask an offender to produce the card, not order. But in cases where a litterbug refuses to hand over the card, Regco staff will call in police reinforcements. Earlier, Mr Leung Nai-chung had said that those who refused to comply with the foremen once they were stopped might also face a charge of obstructing the Regco officer, in addition to the one for littering. Mr Cheung moved with a proprietorial air from the Kam Wah shopping centre, along Yan Ching Street and past the Yan Oi Tong sports hall. Tuen Mun, it must be said, was looking pretty tidy, especially compared to the stews of Sham Shui Po and Wan Chai. The foremen, with their navy blue trousers and powder blue short-sleeved shirts with Regco badge on each shoulder, spend around a third of their time on litter patrol. The rest of their time is spent inspecting litter bins and supervising the cleaning ofstreets and public toilets. If this all seems highly laudable but rather mundane, there is one section of Tuen Mun's populace that wishes Mr Cheung, Mr T.K. Leung and others of their ilk would keep their noses out of local business. Up and down the pedestrian walkways by the Sun Hui market and central piazza, market stall owners have hung banners accusing Regco of harassment. ''If the shop owners put their goods even one inch out of the shop Regco attacks them,'' read one banner. Another said the council was ''giving them hell'' - although staff at a butcher's shop were giving some of it back when Mr Tong told them to move a table. Children are also not immune from prosecution. Mr Cheung said children aged between seven and 16 caught dropping rubbish would go in front of a children's court in the presence of their parents. There are no courts for dogs, but the owners of animals caught fouling the pavements are brought to book instead. Smokers are a favoured prey, many of whom are likely to flick their dog ends into the gutter after they have finished puffing away. As we walked back to headquarters, chatting about Mr Cheung's work, his sensory organs were suddenly placed on full alert by the smell of burning tobacco. He pivoted on his heels in mid-sentence, tapped a passing man on the shoulder and pointed to the still-smoking cigarette end he had discarded. The middle-aged man reached for his ID card as instructed, while Mr Cheung waited for Mr Tong and Mr Chan - who were walking ahead - to run back with a summons form. They had caught three miscreants in less than an hour, but surely even that did not make the job a glamorous one? That was not the point, Mr Leung Nai-chung said. ''There is a high degree of job satisfaction. The men feel they are getting something done that benefits the community.'' As the old chestnut would have it, it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.