‘I will be here until they kill us’ – hawker at Hong Kong estate defiant after simmering unrest turns violent

Food sellers return to work in Tuen Mun after clashes with self-proclaimed hawker control team

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2016, 3:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 February, 2016, 11:46am

About 10 hawkers at a housing estate in Tuen Mun expressed defiance yesterday and said they would continue to operate despite conflicts plaguing the neighbourhood in recent days.

Tension between a self-proclaimed hawker control team and people supporting the food sellers turned into violence at the 28-year old Leung King housing estate on Tuesday night.

But the brawl was believed to be unrelated to overnight rioting in Mong Kok the day before.

“I will be here until they kill us,” an unfazed hawker who wished to remain anonymous told the Post after the latest clashes. He said the conflicts started around January 21 when a renovated wet market, run by company Link Reit, opened at the estate.

“The so-called managing officers would come at night and fence off the area, stopping people from buying food from us.”

He said Link Reit increased the rent at the wet market after the renovation. “They promised the cooked food stores there would be no hawkers around to encourage them to rent their space.”

Link Reit, or Link Real Estate Investment Trust, owns properties around housing estates and above MTR stations. In a reply to the Post, Link Reit distanced itself from the clashes and denied the hawker control team was its staff.

The Housing Department said the area was supposed to be managed by “incorporated owners” – people who bought flats under a tenants purchase scheme.

Neither the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department nor police were responsible for combating hawking in the area, which was not seen as a public place, the authorities said. The area was understood to be managed by an outside firm, which could not be reached for comment.

Yesterday afternoon the area was bustling with locals buying barbecued skewers and egg waffles. Police officers patrolled throughout the day but the atmosphere remained calm.

A resident called Mr Lam said he did not mind the hawkers. “They are just trying to make a living. Using violence to clear them out is too much,” he said. But a Mrs Tsang said: “I think they are unhygienic.”

Garen Hon Lai-yin, founder of Tuen Mun Community, said a group who claimed to act on behalf of a company responsible for managing the estate or its market had carried out operations against illegal food hawkers for several nights in a row.

Some residents supported the hawkers, triggering scuffles that resulted in four people being injured on Tuesday. Police said they were attacked by three men, who fled and were still at large.

A 31-year-old man was arrested for causing disorder in a public place. He allegedly interfered with a worker performing his duties at Leung King estate.

Additional reporting by Allen Au-yeung