Hong Kong police will deploy special forces to help evict unlicensed hawkers in West Kowloon during the Lunar New Year holidays.
More than 1,000 policemen will be fielded from this Friday until next Tuesday to hot spots in Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po, alongside officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, news website hk01.com reports.
The policemen will be equipped with shields and pepper spray in case of large-scale arrests, although there have been no reports of any planed protests.
Last year, clashes broke out between police and hawkers and their supporters on the first day of the new year.
More than 100 people were injured in the violence after police tried to throw out illgeal street hawkers from Portland Street.
Dozens of people were subsequently arrested and charged. The government described the incident as rioting.
The hawker bazaar this year will be located in Maple Street and at the intersection of Tung Chau Street and Yen Chow Street in Sham Shui Po.
But police expect many unlicensed hawkers in Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei.
Lawmaker Lau Siu-lai urged the police to exercise restraint so as not to spoil the holiday atmosphere.
Calling the police mobilization “fearful”, a director from the alliance concerning the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme and low-income people said street hawking has been part of Hong Kong culture.
Authorities should allow some room for hawkers to do business, he said.
Health Secretary Ko Wing-man said the authorities will do their best to tolerate hawkers. He urged them not to block the streets.
Meanwhile, some hawkers said business has been slow in the past few years amid stricter law enforcement, according to Apple Daily.
Also, a growing number of Honkongers tend to spend their holidays overseas, a veteran hawker was quoted as saying.
– Contact us at [email protected]