Wholesalers want government to prove case for new hygiene measure Poultry wholesalers will seek a judicial review of the new ban on overnight stocking of live chickens. The Poultry Wholesalers Association said it would take the matter to court to demand the government give more evidence to back the ban. Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen said the group would file an application for legal aid today for a battle against the measure, introduced by the government as a measure to combat bird flu. 'What data and evidence does the administration have to forcefully impose the ban on us?' Mr Tsui asked. 'The government still does not know from which chickens the droppings samples that tested positive for H5N1 came. We want to ask on what ground the government can introduce the ban. 'The government said it might be a problem caused by smuggled chickens. Then it should prove it and locate the smuggled chickens. The trade has done nothing wrong, and yet we are punished.' The ban took effect yesterday as live chicken sales resumed at the end of a 21-day suspension imposed after the deadly H5N1 virus was found in chicken droppings at four markets. A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said the government had sought legal advice before introducing the ban. 'The new practice is legal,' he said. 'There is a need to introduce measures to improve virus prevention at different levels in face of threats from bird flu, especially at the retail level. The ban can effectively strengthen prevention and reduce the risk of a bird flu outbreak.' In another development, the Legislative Council next week will discuss a proposal calling for repeal of the ban, put forward by League of Social Democrats lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip. Mr Chan said the government had created fear to gain public support and the ban would have a great impact on the food industry and related business. 'The government should withdraw financial proposals to buy out [licences of] poultry traders,' he said. 'Secondly, it should reorganise the whole plan to tackle the problem and redesign wet markets to make sure we will not have another bird flu outbreak.' Three parties - the Democratic Party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and the Liberal Party - have different ideas on the ban. The chairman of the Legco panel on food safety and environmental hygiene, Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, said his party, the Liberal Party, supported the repeal of the ban. 'Clearing all chickens in the wet market is not the best way to tackle this problem as it is a problem of smuggled chickens,' Mr Cheung said. Fred Li Wah-ming, of the Democratic Party, said the party respected the views of the majority. 'We did a poll and it showed 60 per cent of the public supported the overnight ban, so we will not support the repeal of the ban,' he said. Agriculture and Fisheries sector lawmaker Wong Yung-kan, of the DAB, said the party needed to collect opinions from the trade and monitor the situation in wet markets for few days before reaching a conclusion. 'I personally think the ban should be lifted as it is imposed on traders unreasonably. The government has no evidence to support the ban. But I can't speak for my party. We will make a decision next week,' he said. The overnight ban on live chicken stocks became effective yesterday when sales of live chickens resumed. The government gazetted a measure to ban the keeping of live poultry overnight at wet market stalls to stem bird flu. Under changes to the Food Business Regulations, remaining live chickens have to be slaughtered after 8pm and before 5am.