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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

No mercy: Licensed nonagenarian hawker’s cart confiscated by authorities during bathroom break

A 90-year-old authorized street hawker had her roasted chestnut cart confiscated by authorities on Monday after she left the spot temporarily for a toilet break, leaving it to a non-licensed relative in her absence.
The incident has drawn criticism against authorities’ actions after videos and photos surfaced online showing dozens of police officers surrounding the visibly shaken elderly despite her pitiful plea, warning her she would be arrested for obstructing public officers in the execution of duty if she failed to obey their commands.

The hawker Chan Tak-ching was selling roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes, and quail eggs outside Cheung Sha Wan MTR station when the row broke out that night.

It is understood that officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department told Chan as she returned from a toilet break that she would be prosecuted as they saw a non-license holder hawking at a black spot, adding that they had been waiting for almost 30 minutes for Chan to come back.

In defense, Chan explained she needed 10 minutes to walk to the closest toilet in a nearby shopping center and spend another 10 minutes to return, also noting that she had the license on her and was just away for a while.

However, the officers ignored her plea and instead called for backup when Chan said she intended to stay with her cart.

Moments after police officers arrived, Chan collapsed against the wall and begged for mercy, crying that she has “relied on the cart for making a living for decades,” as she was told she would be arrested if she obstructed the officers confiscating the cart.

It was said that police officers also warned onlooking bystanders against causing a breach of social peace by observing the incident. They also obstructed an SCMP reporter who was taking video.

Police later brought Chan’s relative - a man in his 30s, back to the police station and also arranged for workers to take away the cart.

Responding to a media inquiry, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said their officers had issued verbal warnings in the area one hour before the law enforcement action that day and later returned to find the man in his 30s undergoing unlicensed hawking activity.

The department said the arrest was made after “sufficient evidence” showed the man hawking without authorization and “causing obstruction in a public place.”

It also noted that the enforcement action was not against the license-holding woman, who only showed up more than half an hour after the operation started.

It is understood that Chan may lose her cart permanently as the department said equipment and goods seized during the operations would be confiscated permanently if a suspect was eventually convicted.

Commenting on the case, Lawmaker Doreen Kong Yuk-foon said authorities should be more compassionate when enforcing the law.

She said it was unfair for the officers to still confiscate Chan’s tools for making a living despite hearing her explanation of temporarily leaving the scene for a toilet break, which would take her at least 30 minutes.

Kong also found the current regulations inhumane, which mandate hawkers to avoid areas of high pedestrian flow when hawking.

“Does that mean these hawkers have to operate in remote areas? For them to make a living?” She also urged authorities to review the current regulations and adopt a more relaxed approach to handling the case.
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