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LCQ14: Illegal occupation of public places

     Following is a question by the Hon Priscilla Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 30):


     Recently, I have received complaints from residents in the neighbourhood of Mei Foo Sun Chuen that while the space under a vehicular flyover near the housing estate is a public place, it has been occupied for years by itinerant recyclable waste collectors for placing furniture and miscellaneous items they have collected.  Since October last year, the residents have repeatedly requested the government departments concerned to follow up the case but unfortunately, instead of showing any improvement, the situation has deteriorated with those waste collectors piling up even more objects in that place and treating the place as their temporary storage and rest bay.  The complainants pointed out that such an act not only caused obstruction but also gave rise to hygiene and pest problems, and the objects which were piled up to an excessive height also posed a potential threat to the safety of pedestrians.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of complaints against illegal occupation of public places received by government departments, the major categories of the objects causing obstruction, and the respective numbers of prosecutions and convictions, in the past three years;

(b) which government department is at present responsible for following up complaints related to public places being illegally occupied, and the procedure for processing the complaints;

(c) of the respective penalties for first, second and repeat offences of illegal occupation of public places;

(d) whether staff of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are authorised to immediately remove objects occupying public places for an extended period of time and the owners of which are untraceable; and

(e) on the premise of not banning local recycling business casually, whether the authorities will put forward a solution to help members of the itinerant recycling trade continue their operation, as long as they are hygienic and do not cause obstruction?



(a) In the last three years, the number of complaints against obstruction to scavenging operations, illegal extension of food business and shop front extension received and the number of prosecutions taken out by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) are as follows:  

                  2008       2009      2010
                  ----       ----      ----
Number of
Complaints       13,948     16,949    18,945

Number of
Prosecutions     14,896     16,662    18,841

     The number of convictions accounted for over 99% of the number of prosecutions.  FEHD does not have any statistical information on the articles causing obstruction broken down by types.

     As regards the complaints relating to unlawful occupation of unleased land received and handled by the Lands Department (LandsD) in the last three years of 2008, 2009 and 2010, they mainly involved fencing of unleased land for private use, or placement of skips or construction of structures on unleased land etc.  Details are as follows:

                  2008     2009     2010
                  ----     ----     ----

Number of
Complaints       5,206    4,988    8,776

Number of
Prosecutions      13         9         7

Number of
Convictions       11         8         5

     The number of prosecutions is relatively small because in many cases, the unlawful occupation of unleased land was rectified after LandsD had issued notice.  Among the cases where the irregularity persisted, some of them lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute the persons who could have been involved in the unlawful occupation of the unleased land.  

(b) The core function of FEHD is maintaining environmental hygiene. Hence, FEHD will accord enforcement priority to cases causing obstruction to scavenging operations or relating to illegal extension of food business, and will take enforcement action in accordance with the actual circumstances.  FEHD will also actively participate in inter-departmental operations coordinated by the Home Affairs Department.

     When handling situations relating to unlawful occupation of unleased land mentioned in part (a) above, LandsD will normally issue a notice after such irregularity has been identified.  The notice will require the occupier to cease occupying the land before the deadline specified therein.  If the irregularity persists, LandsD will take further land control action including taking possession of the property or structure on the land and may, if the occupier can be ascertained, consider prosecution action having regard to legal advice.

(c) The penalties under the legislation invoked by FEHD are as follows:

Relevant Legislation       Maximum Penalty
--------------------       ---------------

Section 22 of the          Fine of $5,000 and
Public Health and          daily fine of $50
Municipal Services
Ordinance (Cap. 132)

Section 34C of the         Fine of $10,000,
Food Business              imprisonment for
Regulation (Cap. 132X)     3 months and daily
under the Public Health    fine of $300
and Municipal Services
Ordinance (Cap. 132)

Section 4A of the          Fine of $5,000
Summary Offences           or imprisonment
Ordinance (Cap. 228)       for 3 months

     The above-mentioned Ordinances do not stipulate special penalties for first, second and repeat offences.

     LandsD will normally invoke section 6 of the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28) in handling unlawful occupation of unleased land.  The maximum penalty for conviction of a usual case of unlawful occupation of unleased land is a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for 6 months.

(d) Once an article causing obstruction to scavenging operations is found, FEHD staff will invoke section 22 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) and issue a notice to the owner of the article, requiring him to remove the article within a specified period, failing which FEHD may seize the article.

(e) According to the Environmental Protection Department, the Administration has been encouraging the community to participate in source separation of waste for recycling, so as to minimise the need for waste disposal and further increase the recovery rate.  An effective recycling network with convenient outlets for public use is essential in promoting source separation of waste for recycling.  However, when choosing a suitable location for a collection point for recyclables, due consideration should be given to the impact of its operation on the neighbourhood environment, such as whether it will cause any obstruction to the nearby residents or create any hygiene problem.  The mobile recyclers should consider the same when providing waste recycling service in local districts to avoid causing nuisance to nearby residents.

Ends/Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:48


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