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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Call for rethink of shoeshiner's charge
26 June 2009
South China Morning Post

The government should reconsider a charge laid against a female shoeshiner in Central since it is considering granting licences to others plying the same trade there, Civic Party lawmakers say.

In a letter to the secretary for food and health, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee wrote that a female shoeshiner, Ngai Chuen-ying, had received a summons to appear in court on July 15 for obstructing a public road on April 29. The shoeshiners work in the Theatre Lane and Murray Road area.

The summons to Ms Ngai was issued on June 17, Ms Eu wrote. That was the same day that Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers talked to four of the five embattled shoeshiners over issuing licences. "The charge against Ms Ngai {hellip} is not in line with the government's preparation works over issuing them the licences," the letter said.

Ms Eu demanded that the health chief give the matter his attention and such incidents be avoided.

The Civic Party is helping the five shoeshiners, who are facing eviction for operating without licences and obstructing roads. The government later began negotiating with the shoeshiners and said it would seek opinions from the Central and Western District Council and government departments over whether to issue them licences.

Tanya Chan, another Civic Party lawmaker who is also a Central and Western District Council member, said she hoped the government would consider dismissing the charge against Ms Ngai.

"In the wake of the latest development, it is inappropriate to continue the charge now," Ms Chan said.

Most of the district councillors supported the shoeshiners, she said.

A spokeswoman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department declined to comment on the case, but said it had not taken action against shoeshiners in Central since May.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Opinion : Should the shoeshiners be allowed to stay in Theatre Lane?
21 August 2009
South China Morning Post

I refer to the report "Brush-off for shoeshiners in Theatre Lane revamp" (August 13). I do not want your readers to think that the shoeshiners are being squeezed out of Theatre Lane by the developer of the adjacent property, Luk Hoi Tong.

Luk Hoi Tong has always supported the presence of shoeshiners in that lane. We have peacefully coexisted with the shoeshiners for more than 40 years and consider them to be part of the historic culture of this area.

We support licences being given to the shoeshiners currently occupying Theatre Lane.

However, all issues of public safety must be thoroughly considered before formally setting the terms of the licences.

In accordance with building regulations and general building plans approved by the Buildings Department and Fire Services Department on January 25, 2006, emergency vehicular access is required for Theatre Lane. The developer had to abide by regulations when the new building was planned and designed.

Our letter to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department reminded the department to take the emergency access into consideration when deciding on hawker licences for the shoeshiners.

We did not object to the issuance of hawker licences in the letter or indicate that "shoeshiners should not be located outside [our] building".

For most of the past 50 years, the shoeshiners operated not in the middle of the lane but at the quieter end near Des Voeux Road.

They occasionally came into the Luk Hoi Tong Building for shelter when there was a downpour.

The shoeshiners have told the local media that they wish to operate in a location close to the end of the lane near Des Voeux Road Central.

We hope the department can take note of these views.

Your graphic incorrectly marked the "area now used by shoeshiners". They are in fact stationed in the area that is designated as the emergency vehicular access. This has caused a misunderstanding among some of your readers, including Clement Wong (Talkback, August 17).

Overall, Luk Hoi Tong is confident that the shoeshiners can be given licences to operate in Theatre Lane, and at the same time public-safety concerns with regard to emergency vehicular access can be respected.

This is possible if the government licensing process is carried out in a thoughtful manner.

Lau Chi-keung, project manager, Luk Hoi Tong Co Ltd Redevelopment Project
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Shoeshiners set to get licences next month
2 September 2009
South China Morning Post

Shoeshiners in Central have been told they will be given hawker licences next month if no objections are raised by the district council or affected parties in the area.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced the decision at a closed-door meeting with hawkers yesterday, a lawmaker who was at the meeting said.

Hawkers said they were pleased to be finally given a date for getting their licences, although doubts remained over the stance of a developer planning a 27-storey building on a vacant lot in Theatre Lane where many of the shoeshiners operated.

Democratic Party legislator Kam Nai-wai said he did not expect any objection from district councillors, who unanimously supported the plan in July. But he said: "We don't know yet whether the developers around Theatre Lane will take legal action against the proposal."

Developer Luk Hoi Tong, which is building the Theatre Lane tower, could not be reached for comment.

The shoeshiners, who have worked outside the law and have been a fixture of the lane for decades, will receive fixed-location licences that include an operating space of 15cm by 22.5cm for HK$2,590 a year.

The proposal will be discussed by the Central and Western District Council next week and then gazetted.

Luk Hoi Tong has written to the government expressing concern that the shoeshiners working in Theatre Lane could block access of emergency vehicles and affect evacuation.

Kam said officials believed the shoeshiners would not obstruct emergency vehicles and departments, including fire services, had agreed.

Yeung Siu-ying, 73, who has worked in the lane for 10 years, said he was delighted. "I was afraid that the government would be playing a delaying strategy with us. But now, finally, I know when I will be given a licence," he said.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
South China Morning Post Excerpt
Hong Kong shoeshiner wins licence to ply trade and carry on her late husband’s business
City’s hawker policy terminates a licence upon its holder’s death, which can make a hard life even harder
June 10, 2016

Despite the periodic rain, shoeshiner Zheng Dingzhen could not be more delighted to reopen her stall after 18 months of unemployment.

Zheng, 47, used to help with her husband’s bootblack business on Theatre Lane in Central. But, in keeping with current policy, the license terminated after his death last year.

“I’m happy that I can get the license. I suffered serious foot injuries and could not work in other businesses,” she said. “I really needed this job.”

With the help of Democratic Party district councillor Ted Hui Chi-fung, Zheng won her application before the Licensing Appeals Aboard on Wednesday to secure a licence in her own name.

Yet the immigrant from Hubei province still felt uncertain about her future.

“My son is 22 years old, unemployed and not well-educated,” she said. “I can merely focus on my life at the moment and can’t think too much about the future.”

Her debts were considerable due to prior unemployment and her husband’s medical expenses before his death.

The rainy weather exacerbated her plight. She and three fellow shoeshiners stayed away from Theatre Lane for months.

Yeung Hong, 80, described his income as “really unstable”. The three-decade bootblack veteran operating next to Zheng said it was “increasingly difficult to earn money” in the economic slowdown.

He said the price for a shoeshine had risen over the years from HK$15 to HK$40. The Post observed fewer than 10 people stopping by his stall for service one recent morning.

Another shoeshiner who only gave her surname as Ying said she normally had 20 customers a day, “barely enough to cover my daily expenses”.
 
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