Fears have been raised that a review of hawker licensing for the revamped Graham Street market, where the government is being urged to allow hawkers to stay, would set a precedent for hawkers elsewhere. Some 53 hawkers operate in the 160-year-old open market of Graham and Peel streets, according to the Urban Renewal Authority. But its chairman, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, said yesterday some hawkers were already at such an age that they were likely to surrender their licences to the government for one-off compensation. 'The market will be vibrant only if the hawkers stay, he said. 'The results of the policy review would be critical.' A total of 6,513 fixed-pitch and 590 itinerant hawkers were operating in the city as of March this year. The numbers have been falling quickly since a five-year voluntary surrender scheme for the licences was introduced in 2002. Under that policy, the government stopped issuing new hawker licences, and licences expired with the death of the licensee. Previously, fixed-pitch hawker licences could be passed on to immediate family members. Although tourists were attracted to open street markets, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said hawkers impeded pedestrian passage with their trolleys and goods and caused hygiene problems. The issue poses a challenge to the Development Bureau and the Urban Renewal Authority, which plan to preserve the market, since hawker licensing falls outside their jurisdiction. Last month, the Food and Health Bureau promised a review of the licensing policy after talks with the authority and the Development Bureau. The review is expected to be finished early next year. But a source close to the government said it was concerned about implications for other sites if Graham Street market hawker licences were allowed to be inherited or transferred. 'Hawkers of other areas could demand the same treatment.'