Tin Shui Wai market forces stall

Hawkers' new trading space opens with much haste, little fanfare and even fewer customers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 February, 2013, 4:03am

Tin Shui Wai's new open-air hawker market opened yesterday - hastily and with little fanfare.

Doubts remain whether the government-regulated Tin Sau Market can replace an unauthorised dawn market along the town nullah, where sellers wage a constant game of cat-and-mouse with hawker-control officers.

Only a handful of people were seen walking around the market after its 8am opening, as hawkers complained of rushed arrangements, insufficient advertising and rigid rules.

"I'm still seeing how it goes. If business over here is bad, I'll probably spend my mornings back over by the waterside," said Lau Siu-mui, 68, who sells a range of dried and pickled herbs, as well as goods like rubber gloves.

"If the waterside market was legalised, of course I'd prefer to be over there. That area is more convenient for people."

Lau sold goods at the dawn market for more than five years.

The hawkers - a lucky few who managed to get one of the 186 stalls that were 24 times over-applied - scrambled to prepare for yesterday's opening after receiving the keys just the day before. The market plan was announced suddenly in September.

Locals' suggestions and requests on the sort of market they would like were ignored, said another hawker, Wong Yuk-ling, who was unable to start business yesterday due to the rush.

A South China Morning Post reporter counted 76 stalls that were empty or not open in the morning.

The stall rents cost HK$800 to HK$1,200 a month at the market, which is operated by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. They are required to be open for business at least four hours a day, and 20 days a month with space usage strictly regulated.

The types of goods for sale must be listed beforehand and a monthly sales report has to be filed.

"The rules stopped a lot of the local farmers from getting a stall," farmer Lo Yim-fong said. "Depending on the season, we sometimes open only for an hour or two a day. We're not big farmers, we don't have lots of goods."

The isolated community of Tin Shui Wai - dubbed the city of sadness because of high unemployment and a spate of suicides - has long wanted dawn markets legalised without success.