Two stalls at Hong Kong hawker bazaars have stood empty for 29 years, watchdog finds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015, 11:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015, 11:38pm

Two stalls at government-run food hawker bazaars have been vacant for 29 years, while almost half of the 238 such stalls citywide have sat unused for a decade, a watchdog has found.

The Audit Commission recommended that the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department consider rationalising and closing some of the 11 bazaars in a report on public cooked food markets, released yesterday.

The bazaars were introduced between the 1970s and 1990s in a drive to move the city's dai pai dong - or cooked food stalls - off the streets. But they are open only to licensed food hawkers, whose numbers have dwindled due to strict rules on the transfer of licences and a ban on new licences under most circumstances.

"As a result, the number of licensed hawkers operating in [cooked food hawker bazaars] has been decreasing over time, resulting in an increasing number of vacant … stalls," the commission's report found.

The department generally accepted the report and said it was moving to release the sites of three bazaars for redevelopment. But it said it would have to consider "the cost of social acrimony associated with non-renewal and forced eviction".

Overall, 61 per cent of stalls at the bazaars were vacant by December last year. For the three least popular bazaars, vacancy rates were above 80 per cent. Two stalls had been unused for 29 years, while 112 had been unused for 10 years or more.

By contrast, at cooked food markets - in which hawkers who surrendered their licences set up shop - vacancy rates were just 6per cent. At the 39 cooked food centres - attached to public markets - the vacancy rate was just 3 per cent.

However, at the temporary Cheung Sha Wan cooked food market, the vacancy rate was 57 per cent. The auditor said the bureau should find an exit plan.