The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has been called merciless after it charged a 75-year-old woman who sold scavenged cardboards to a foreign domestic helper for HK$1 with conducting unlicensed sales activities.
In a plea letter addressed to an Eastern magistrates’ court and posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday, Joseph Lai Chi-keong, a member of Eastern District Council, asked the judge to show kindness and mercy to the old woman, surnamed Chu.
The woman is too old to get a job and being a scavenger is the only way she can survive, Lai said, adding that she has been in a state of panic after learning that she could be jailed and slapped a fine she could not afford.
Lai told Ming Pao Daily that the woman came to him for help a few days ago, asking him to seek court leniency on her behalf after she was called to appear before the court hearing her case next Wednesday.
According to Lai, Chu, who insists on self-reliance even though she suffers serious arthritis and other chronic diseases, has been earning a living by collecting cardboard scraps near the Hong Kong Observation Wheel in Central for some time.
Selling the cardboards to recycling shops near her residence in Chai Wan is her only source of income, he said.
Last Sunday, as the old woman was picking up cardboards in Central, a foreign domestic helper reportedly approached her and offered HK$1 for the three cardboard pieces in her trolley.
Soon after the deal was made, an FEHD officer showed up and accused Chu of being an unlicensed hawker.
She was then taken to the police station where she was given a ticket, and her cardboard scraps and trolley were impounded.
She begged for mercy, but the FEHD officer ignored her.
Lai said the incident was an example of excessive law enforcement that could give rise to perceptions of a cold-hearted society. He said he hopes the judge will just give her a light penalty, Apple Daily reported.
The FEHD declined to comment on the case on the ground that it has entered the judicial process.
Under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, a first offender who is convicted of conducting unlicensed sales activities is liable to a HK$5,000 fine and one-month imprisonment.
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