The legislature voted on Thursday to bar shops from selling alcohol to people under the age of 18.

Bars and restaurants are banned from selling alcohol to minors under liquor licensing rules, but the law does not apply to retailers, who voluntarily agree not to sell alcohol to underage consumers. Under the new law, convenience stores and supermarkets will also have to follow the rule.

It will also apply to online stores, which must obtain a statement that a buyer seeking alcohol is over 18 before making the sale.

Liquour section in a supermarket. File Photo: Wikimedia.

The law may come into effect as soon as August. Those in violation are liable to a fine of up to HK$50,000.

Lawmakers debated the issue for over six hours. They voted down a part of the amendment bill that would have allowed law enforcement to enter private properties after obtaining a search warrant, with 12 votes for, 29 votes against.

Members of the pro-establishment camp spoke out to oppose the amendment during the debate, saying it would cause a nuisance to the people.

“Relatively speaking, this is not a serious crime,” said Holden Chow, “but if we still allow the government’s law enforcement officers to enter private property to conduct a search, even if they obtain a search warrant from a judge to do so, I think this is disproportional.”

sophia chan
Sophia Chan. Photo: Screenshot/RTHK.

People Power lawmaker Ray Chan said that the pro-democracy camp’s view tends to be that law enforcement should not have more power than they need to have. If there is another law that can solve the problem of residences selling alcohol, then food and health inspectors do not need this power, he said.

Sophia Chan, the Secretary for Food and Health, said after the meeting that the amendment being voted down makes the law incomplete, but added that the government will consider lawmakers’ views when formulating law enforcement guidelines in the future.

During the debate, she said that she understood that lawmakers were concerned that the amendment would give too much power to law enforcement, but the government tried to strike a balance while formulating the law, and the officers would only enter private properties if they have reason to suspect that alcohol was being sold to minors.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.