Saturday, November 06, 2004

Beware! Hawker Patrol!

There's a restaurant where I usually eat dinner. It's a terrific Nepali place where I can eat as much rice, daal and vegetable curry as I want for $HK20. I even get pickle and a bowl of yoghurt on the side.

This particular restaurant is on Temple St and faces out onto two night market stalls. One is a jewellery stall where the stallholder has been playing "Jenny from the Block" constantly since its release. The other is an illegal VCD stall.

Illegal VCD's are rife in Hong Kong. They are particularly rife on Temple St. At the (relatively) respectable end where I live you can find copies of latest Hollywood and Canto films. At the other end you can't walk two metres without someone yelling 'sexy movie!' at you.

Most illegal VCD vendors sell their goods out of a large wooden suitcase like contraption propped on cardboard or polystyrene boxes. The vendor in front of my favourite restaurant has rented a whole stall space which can fit four of these large foldable suitcase things.

At least two people have to be working at the stall at any one time. One sells the VCD's while another keeps an eye out for the Hawker Patrol - kind of like traffic wardens who go after illegal street vendors. This photo comes from the HK government website:

The thing is that the Hawker Patrol are not that vigilant as they appear to be in the above photo. In addition to the illegal VCD hawkers there is an abundance of illegal cooked food hawkers selling fried stuff around my place. Their little kitchens are on wheels for an easy get away but the little old ladies operating them don't move all that fast.

Sitting in my regular restaurant I get to see exactly how hard the hawker patrol try to do something about the illegal VCD stall.

Sometimes the scout sees the Hawker Patrol coming and they pack up the stall before the HP manage to saunter up. The HP then observe that absolutely nothing illegal is going on in the strangely empty stall.

Sometimes they don't finish the pack up before the HP arrive. On those occasions, the HP stand close by, looking in another direction until it is safe to observe that nothing illegal is going on.

Once last week, the stall holder didn't notice the HP and they had to make their presence known. They said something, probably along the lines of 'Don't you know you're supposed to run away before we get here?'. The stall holder then packed up and the HP noted that nothing illegal was going on.

I have two things to say about this:

Firstly I don't think it does anything for HK people's respect for the law. I will blog another time about how this type of problem is huge in HK.

Secondly, I want a t-shirt that says:
'Yau Ma Tei Hawker Patrol'


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