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designing hong kong
Expand the review on Hawker Licensing Policy

At long last, a review on hawker licensing has been announced by the Administration in a paper to the Legislative Council on 10 June 2008 Click here for LC Paper No. CB(2)2147/07-08(03). Designing Hong Kong has responded - highlights are below.

1.      New licenses needed urgently

Temporary licenses for selected bazaars are needed urgently as an interim measure; we can't wait for the review to be completed. Having stopped issuing new hawker licences in the 1970’s, retirement and death of the remaining license holders is resulting in a growing number of vacant pitches (Graham and Peel Street) and illegal occupation (Mongkok). New license holders can revitalize these markets, and ensure we maintain their critical mass and stop their dilapidation. 

2.      Consult the public

In addition to District Councils and hawker associations, the community at large must be invited to participate in the review. A digest, website, and one or more public forums are needed to stimulate the discussion.

Hawker licensing should no longer be part of the "Clean Hong Kong" policy of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. Hawking is not a street-cleaning problem but a job opportunity, and important for the vibrancy of our street life and economy.

Broaden the scope: Private rights over public space

Why limit the review to the sales of tangible commodities? There is a range of private activities on public space which overlap and are poorly looked after: ‘outside seating’ (licenses are almost impossible to get); promotions in public spaces (unregulated and a growing number of complaints); and performances in public spaces (opaque regulations).

There are an increasing number of temporary bazaars where goods and services are promoted and sold, and there is a latent demand for more book fairs, flower markets, second hand markets, festivals and carnivals on a ad-hoc or regular (annual/weekly) basis.

With the diversification of public space, the policy review should not only cover the streets and side walks, but also include pleasure grounds, the new harbourfronts, as well as public spaces and passages on private land.

Separate the ‘designation of hawker areas’ from ‘licensing policy’

The designation of areas for hawkers and the number and size of pitches should become a deliberate policy with a mechanism involving both the Government, district councils and the community. These areas should be marked on maps and Outline Zoning Plans to ensure that they are well recognized. We propose to distinguish between:

  • 'Single hawker permitted place’ (i.e. for a newspaper stand).
  • ‘Permanent hawker permitted area’ (a pedestrian precinct, promenade or portion of a pleasure ground designated for a permanent open air bazaar with fixed pitches and support facilities).
  • ‘Temporary hawker permitted area’ (a street, pedestrian precinct, promenade, portion of a pleasure ground, or vacant land designated for temporary open air bazaar – either regular or once off – with relevant support infrastructure).
  • ‘Hawker permitted zones’ (areas where mobile hawkers can operate subject to area specific guidelines and the conditions of their license). 
5.      Permitted goods and services – and the design of the area 

To minimize the risk of nuisance, obstruction and environmental hygiene, designated areas should be well planned and include drainage, electricity and water, and be well managed including traffic and cleansing.
In planning and designing hawker areas, the permitted type of goods and services (dry, wet, food, cooked food) will impact the drainage, refuse transfer and cleansing required.

To date, markets and hawkers have been condoned pending their extinction, resulting in dilapidated and unhygienic situations. T
he number of open-air wet markets, cooked food bazaars, and Dai Pai Tongs can be expanded as long as these are well planned. Hygiene problems are a direct result of the accidental location of pitches and lack of support infrastructure.

6.      Fixed hawker pitches

The location of existing pitches must be reviewed and rationalized. New locations must be found for pitches which are causing obstruction.

The current permitted pitch sizes may well be unrealistic and should be reviewed based on the actual practice. One hawker license holder can only be allowed to operate one pitch and in no instance should the illegal occupation of adjacent pitches be normalized.

7.      New hawker licensing

To keep the trade vibrant and to afford opportunities to those who want to enter, any and all new hawker licenses must be limited in time and to one pitch only. New licenses should be issued following an auction or other fair system. New hawker licenses can be made subject to the completion of a test to ascertain the knowledge of relevant rules and regulations.

The transfer of existing hawker licenses should be limited to family members who are registered as joint operators, and only in case of death or ill health.

8.      Itinerant (mobile) hawker licensing

Although we support that mobile hawkers are strictly controlled in line with the capacity of specific trading zones, we believe that a more flexible approach is required.
 Mobile hawker licenses should have conditions related to the type of pitch they use (car/van, bike, push cart, sandwich board/banner), the goods/services they sell or promote and the zone(s) they can operate in. 

The issuing of itinerant licenses must be made subject to the approval of the mobile pitch. A system must be adopted which allow operators to propose new mobile pitch types for approval. 

In addition to ice cream, other food products should be allowed subject to the quality of the pitch, including chest nut, tofu dessert, pancake and peanut candies which are part of Hong Kong’s culture. 

With the expansion of ‘promotional hawkers’ using banners, stands or vans, the itinerant hawker licensing has to be expanded to cover the sale of services and promotions.
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