By Kwong Po Yi
Photo retrieved from:
If you have ever been to Sheung Shui, the small district near the border, you must have heard of Choi Yuen Night Market, which is famed as ‘Shilin Night Market in Hong Kong’. Hawkers without license cluster there and sell all kinds of street food, ranging from fried chicken cartilage to black pudding with chive. However, early this year, these illegal hawkers got repelled in the name of harming public hygiene. This action aroused public outcry and brought up discussion of revising hawker license.
Why is there public outcry?
The public concerns over this issue are mainly 2 folds. First, this policy reduces their access to street food, which becomes increasingly rare in most residential areas in the territory. Some may even relate the suppression of hawker practices to developer hegemony because the rent-free stalls are in conflicts with the interest of those big malls. For example, hawkers of Choi Yuen Night Market operate their businesses on a footbridge, which is managed by the Link REIT, a real estate investment trust managing a number of shopping malls. The Link REIT coordinated with Hawker Control Team and carried out raids on hawkers early this year, which caused the aforementioned outcry.
Regulations about hawker practices and its rationale
There are certain laws regulating hawker practices at present – the Itinerant Hawker License (IHL), which authorizes licensee to hawk in a mobile nature. The current policy does not allow succession or transfer of IHL, which means that hawkers will gradually vanish on streets alongside the decease of the original licensee. This law was enacted in 1970s in view of the overwhelming hawker practices and the deteriorating surroundings caused by them. Since then, the government has been getting across the message of poor sanitation of illegal hawkers as a means of suppressing them.
To revise the policy or not?
In my own opinion, the government should revise the present policy. It is flawed to conclude that hawkers do more harm than good to the public. They literally do not affect public hygiene to a large extent whilst the benefits brought by their existence are manifest. First, they bring about revival of local food culture. This may even serve as a tourist attraction, which truly reflects indigenous characteristics of the district. Moreover, it brings about social sustainability as hawkers can maintain themselves through their own business, and therefore rely less on societal resources.
Thus, the government should allow the continuity of the license, either by succession or transfer of it. It can even consider issuing a few new licenses to cater for the need of potential hawkers while a ceiling of the number of licenses shall be set. To ensure the hygiene of the food and surroundings, hawkers ought to acquire food hygiene certificates as well. Hawker Control Team may conduct regular checks on the night markets and coordinate cleansing work with street cleansing department.
Furthermore, concerning the limited space for night markets, the government can look for public space that suits the operations of them. It can as well negotiate with certain stakeholders, e.g. the Link REIT, for relaxing its restrictions on hawkers.
It is in the government’s best interest to review the policy. Particularly, the government has failed to solve loads of social problems that arouse much loathing. Giving out this little benefit may help ease public sentiment.
Apple Daily. (n.d.). 領匯封殺彩園夜市小販. Retrieved 3 23, 2014, from
Department of Information and Tourism,Taipei City Government. (n.d.). Shilin
Night Market . Retrieved 3 25, 2014, from Taipei Travel.Net:
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department . (n.d.). Pleasant Environment.
Retrieved 3 27, 2014, from Hawker Control Overview:
TheHouseNews. (2014, 2 7). 「最自由經濟體」的雙重標準. Retrieved 3 25,
2014, from http://thehousenews.com/society/最自由經濟體-的雙重標準