An alliance formed by hawkers and concern groups have urged the government to allow new food stall bazaars in each of Hong Kong’s five regions during the Lunar New Year holidays next year. The plan aims to launch ten official spots for food stalls in order to prevent overcrowding at any one location.
The ten areas include five bazaars within new pedestrian zones, and five on the sites of existing annual Lunar New Year fairs. The proposal would cover New Territories East and West, Kowloon East and West, and Hong Kong Island between January 28 and 30.
The suggestion came after the Yau Tsim Mong District Council rejected a government plan to set up temporary food stalls at the MacPherson Playground during the first three days of the festive break.
The groups said that the playground was an appropriate location, but it was understandable that the plan was rejected as the Food and Health Bureau adopted a top-down approach and did not conduct any public consultation. The plan only allowed for 40 stalls.
Another issue with the government plan, the alliance said, was that it did not allow for the use of open fires. Therefore a list of traditional street food could not be made, and only a limited number of hawkers holding food factory licences would be able to take part.
Lawmaker Lau Siu-lai, representing the Kowloon West area, said she welcomed that the government responded to the need for food stalls during the holidays, but only having food stalls in Mong Kok was not enough.
“We know that, in the past, people have set up their own food stall bazaars everywhere during Lunar New Year,” she said. “If everyone went to Mong Kok, of course people living in Mong Kok will object.”
She said that the new bazaars, which would be on the streets instead of in playgrounds, may provide easier evacuation routes, after studying the group’s plans.
Chiu Sin-ting, a spokesperson for Supporting Grassroot Bazaar Alliance, said one of the suggested bazaars would be on Portland Street outside the shopping mall Langham Place in Mong Kok, which could accommodate at least 60 food stalls.
Chiu added that the number of stalls is a significant factor for success, and that a bazaar should have around 60 stalls. The number of street hawkers in Hong Kong can sustain such an event, Chiu said.
The groups also said that the government should make a list of venues for street markets and consult all district councils, stakeholders and residents, so that future markets could be conducted without having to consult the public every time.
The government often tolerates street hawkers without licences in Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po during the Lunar New Year holidays, as many restaurants do not open. But this February, on New Year’s day, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department cracked down on the stalls, and police were later mobilised. Violent clashes between the police and protesters were triggered.
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