Less than a week after public outcry forced it to drop charges against a 75-year-old woman who sold cardboard scraps without a license, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) is under fire again.
This time, its officers are being assailed for prosecuting a housewife who simply offered sweet potato leaves to friends in Tin Shui Wai, Metro Daily reports.
The 47-year-old woman surnamed Miu said she was charged by FEHD staff with illegal hawking on Wednesday after she gave sweet potato leaves to a friend she ran into in the neighborhood.
She stressed that she never intended to sell the vegetables, as she did not lay them on the ground for display or collected any money from those who received them.
According to Sing Tao Daily, Miu gathered around 8 catties of sweet potato leaves from her mother’s vegetable farm in Fanling earlier that day.
She was returning home with the leaves in a shopping trolley when she met two friends near the bus stop outside Tin Chak Shopping Center at around 5 p.m.
Miu offered her friends some of the vegetables and one of them offered to pay HK$20 in return. Miu refused to take the money and her friends left after saying thanks.
But several FEHD staff suddenly accosted her and asked for her Hong Kong identity card. They also asked if she had any valid hawker’s license.
When she said she had no license as she was not selling anything, the FEHD officers issued her a ticket for illegal hawking.
Many passersby came to defend Miu and a heated exchange with the FEHD staff ensued. Around 10 police officers with batons and shields were called to the scene, and Miu was taken to a police station.
She was released on bail late Wednesday night with the assistance of Democratic Party legislator Roy Kwong Chun-yu.
Kwong said law enforcement officers should have issued a warning before proceeding with prosecution, adding that he hopes the FEHD will not press charges against Miu.
In an earlier case, FEHD officers filed charges of illegal hawking and street obstruction against a 75-year-old woman who sold some of the cardboards she had scavenged in Central to a domestic helper for HK$1.
An account of the incident spread across social media, drawing massive reaction from netizens who denounced the FEHD staff for excessive law enforcement and lack of discretion.
The outcry prompted the department to drop the charges earlier this week.
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