Revitalise street market culture, Civic Party urges

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2007, 12:00am

The new Development Bureau was urged yesterday to rejuvenate the city's old street markets and encourage new people in to the traditional trade instead of eliminating them.

The Civic Party, which made the call, said the markets and their cultural value were under threat from aggressive redevelopment projects and the stagnant hawker policy under which no new licences would be issued.

The party is campaigning to save the Graham Street market in Central, which is due for removal under an Urban Renewal Authority plan.

A spokesman for the Development Bureau said the authority took into account local character when planning projects.

'The recently launched project at Peel Street/Graham Street ... has demonstrated the URA's effort on this front. Although strictly speaking the hawkers fall outside the project boundaries, URA fully encourages these hawkers to continue their activities upon completion of the project,' he said

Party vice-chairman Tanya Chan Shuk-chong said: 'After so many years of development the street markets have evolved into public places with their own cultural value. The government should devise a long-term policy on how to keep them.'

Ms Chan said a policy bureau, preferably the Development Bureau, should head and co-ordinate work with various departments on the promotion and preservation of street markets and the management of hawker licensing.

Party member Paul Zimmerman, convenor of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District, also said that the existing hawker licence holders, most of whom applied for their permits in the 1970s, had reached old age.

He said the government should review its policy to allow new people to keep the street markets going. 'The people who are operating now won't live very long because they are old. When they die, there will be no replacement of the activities,' he said.

He also said giving out hawker licences created more job opportunities for people who might not be able to afford to rent a shop.

Now, once the holder of a hawker licence dies, only his immediate relations can inherit the licence.

A Food and Health Bureau spokeswoman said that the policy need not change as the presence of hawkers would cause hygiene and noise problems, and obstruct roads.

But Chinese University historian Ho Pui-yin said street markets were valuable for recording the struggle of the lower middle class. This sector of society began in the mid-19th century when the poor tried to earn money. 'The street markets helped a lot of people build up their fortunes.'

Dying tradition

Only about 10 street markets are still operating in the city.

The number of fixed hawker licences in the city: 6,700