The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) is considering dropping charges against a 75-year-old woman scavenger for alleged illegal hawking.
The woman, surnamed Chu, was arrested on June 11 after selling several scavenged cardboards to a foreign domestic helper for HK$1.
Sources said the FEHD has been seeking legal opinions and considering dropping the charges against the woman after the incident was revealed by Eastern district councilor Lai Chi-keong.
In a letter to a magistrate’s court last week, Lai asked the judge to show mercy to the woman, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Chu suffers from multiple illnesses and relies on collecting cardboards to make a living, he said.
Her arrest showed excessive law enforcement and could give rise to perceptions of a cold-hearted society, according to Lai.
The FEHD has said that the guidelines call for discretion when enforcing the law based on the actual situation and whether the offender is old or handicapped, according to news website hk01.com.
In a reply to an inquiry from then-lawmaker Wong Yuk-man in 2011, the department said its officers are required to give a verbal warning to hawkers to discourage them from conducting illegal sales activities and enforce the law only when the warning is ignored.
It also said staff should reasonably enforce the law if the offenders are old or handicapped.
Based on the charges against her, Chu could be slapped with a hefty fine.
Asked on Sunday for his opinion, Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Ko Wing-man said the matter is for the courts to decide but added the government always tries to enforce the law by putting human sentiment and ethics under consideration, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Apple Daily said Chu’s arrest was not an isolated case.
It reported that an elderly man claimed he had been fined HK$900 several times for selling scrapped cardboards for as little as HK$1.
Meanwhile, the Civic Party launched a signature campaign calling on the FEHD to drop the charges against Chu.
The petition had nearly 13,000 signatures as of Sunday night.
Party leader Alvin Yeung said the incident is controversial because it shows law enforcement by the FEHD does not treat everyone equally.
The FEHD declined to comment.
FEHD slammed for charging old woman who sold cardboard scraps (Jun. 16, 2017)
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