By itself, it’s a minor local news item, typical of the government’s law enforcement that often wastes substantial public resources yet achieves very little. But multiplying such inefficiencies and wastefulness little by little millions of times over the past two decades, it’s little wonder the city reached a boiling point two years ago. Maybe I am reading too much into this case, but it caught my eye because my family and I ate at this unlicensed outdoor barbecue site in Mei Foo several times many years ago. Well, I didn’t check if it had a restaurant licence then; it was popular. Finally, apparently after 18 years of being an unlicensed operation, police and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department inspectors recently cracked down on the site in Kau Wah Keng. Two operators failed to show up for their court summons last week. Warrants have been issued for their arrest. Nothing terribly unusual, so far. Authorities seem to have stepped up enforcement in recent years. Let’s check out the law enforcement records: 41 times in 2017; 31 in 2018; 36 in 2019; 27 in 2020; and 28 so far this year. These raids secured the following annual numbers of convictions or fines respectively during the same period: 73, 49, 42, 38, 28. Clearly, the operators, not unreasonably, had factored in the fines as the costs of doing business, since there seemed to be no risk of being shut down. Absurdly, the Kwai Tsing district Management Committee, whose members include representatives from the police, hygiene department, fire services and district council have put up giant signs warning people not to visit unlicensed barbecue sites or face possible prosecution. 800 diners, staff caught in crackdown on illegal Hong Kong barbecue sites I didn’t know this but you could be fined for patronising such places under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation as well as – I just love this – for “illegal parking”. The Kau Wah Keng site has a registered company behind it. It’s unclear whether officials had gone after company bosses or only operators caught at the site. Seeing how over the years, repeat fines had not worked, more drastic legal measures should have been taken long ago. How often do you read about wealthy homeowners ignoring orders to remove illegal structures or people who occupy disused public land in the New Territories for years and years? And why not, if you can get away with it?