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Sunday, Jul 14, 2024

Distraught hawker, 90, pleads with Hong Kong police after trolley confiscated

Distraught hawker, 90, pleads with Hong Kong police after trolley confiscated

Hawker Chan Tak-ching surrounded by dozens of law enforcement officers in Cheung Sha Wan after she briefly handed over trolley to another person.

Authorities have confiscated a roasted chestnut cart from a visibly shaken 90-year-old authorised street hawker in Hong Kong after she left the stall temporarily for a toilet break, leaving it to a non-licensed relative in her absence.

The dramatic altercation between hawker Chan Tak-ching and dozens of law enforcement officers in Cheung Sha Wan drew more than a hundred onlookers at one point, with the woman collapsing after being told her cart, which she said had provided an income for decades, would be taken away.

“I have my licence with me now. Don’t accuse us of hawking illegally. I was just away for a while,” she cried out, while sitting on the ground and pleading with police.

A man in his 30s, who claimed he was Chan’s relative and looking after the cart temporarily, was taken away by police.

The row broke out at around 8pm when Chan’s cart selling roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes and quail eggs outside Cheung Sha Wan MTR station was surrounded by officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

A Post reporter saw a female department officer warning the hawker, who said she was returning from a toilet break, that she would be prosecuted.

“I saw a non-licence holder hawking at this ‘black spot’ … I was already here for 25 minutes waiting for you to come back,” she said.

Chan Tak-ching pleaded with officers not to confiscate her cart.

The hawker replied: “I needed 10 minutes to walk to the closest toilet in a nearby shopping centre, and another 10 minutes to return.

“Can you please give me a penalty ticket instead of confiscating my cart?”

Officers called for backup when the elderly woman said she intended to stay with her cart. About a dozen officers arrived and cordoned off the area. A male officer warned her over obstructing them in the execution of their duties.

She collapsed against the wall and said: “I beg you to give me a chance. I have relied on it for making a living for decades.”

Police officers also warned bystanders against causing a breach of social peace. They also obstructed the Post reporter who was taking video.

After the man and the cart were taken away, Chan showed her valid itinerant hawker licence to the Post, which specified that she was allowed to sell “roasted chestnuts” from a mobile cart.

“As I cannot transfer my licence to anyone else, I just hope to stand on my own feet by hawking,” she said.

In a bid to comfort Chan, a man came over and offered her HK$1,000 (US$127) in cash. Rebuffing her refusal, he said this was to “buy all the chestnuts she had”.

The Post has approached police and the department for comment.

In recent years, authorities have suspended the issuance of new hawking licences and disallowed most holders from passing on their permits to others.

This has shrunk the number of legal hawkers from tens of thousands in the 1970s to only 153 with itinerant hawker licences in the urban areas, and 177 in the New Territories, currently.

The maximum fine for hawking without a valid licence is HK$5,000 and one month imprisonment upon first conviction.

Officers have targeted unlicensed hawkers from time to time as they deem them to be occupying public space and obstructing traffic flow.

The most dramatic clash in recent years occurred in Mong Kok in 2016 when protesters angered by the eviction of hawkers on the first day of Lunar New Year sparked a riot known as the “fishball revolution” that led to the arrest of more than 60 demonstrators and politicians.

Some argued the protesters had exploited the eviction efforts, with radical localists finding an outlet to vent their grievances by seizing on the issue of hawkers’ livelihoods.


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