Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Picking on the Little Guy

There's a 74-year-old man here by the name of Ng Yuk-fai who sells egg waffles made in a street cart in Causeway Bay. The batter is poured into a cast iron mould that has "bubbles" and then the two halves are put together, flipped around and put over a hot gas flame. When it's done, the batter becomes a sweet-tasting yellow pastry that have bubbles that are hollow inside.

He is trying to make a living without handouts and the authorities keep arresting him. Ng has been selling egg waffles for over 30 years and on Sunday he was arrested for the sixth time this year because he doesn't have a license.

Officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are shutting down these street food vendors on the premise of environmental hygiene, even though Ng is known as "the old egg waffle man".

When Ng was being arrested, an angry crowd gathered and protested. "Give the old man a break. At least he's making his own living and not collecting social security," one shouted.

Sunday was the third time he'd been arrested in a week, the 10th time since early February.

"The arrests are getting more and more frequent," said Sam Cheuk Cheung-sam, manager of the restaurant outside where Ng was arrested. "He never got in anyone's way, he's only trying to make a living."

Ng is fined HK$800 ($103) each time he is arrested and his cart confiscated. Yesterday he built his seventh cart from scratch this year and went back on the street again.

What also made the bystanders angry was that the authorities seemed to be picking on Ng and not on those selling fake items on the street. "If they arrest Ng, they should arrest them too," said neighbour Janice Hung Man-yin.

Ng doggedly continues to do what he knows best -- make egg waffles because his children who are 15, 17 and 18 live with his wife who is 40 in Lufeng, Guangdong.

While Ng admits the authorities have every right to arrest him, he only wished it wasn't so frequent.

He came to Hong Kong in 1958 during the Great Leap Forward and went into egg waffle selling after his venture into trading gold and watches with mainlanders went sour.

Ng makes about HK$6,000 a month selling waffles for HK$10 ($1.28) each. He usually sends HK$4,000 a month to his family and the rest he spends on himself.

However, with the HK$800 fines accumulating, Ng has some HK$20,000 in debts.

With all the media attention on Ng it will be interesting to see how the government handles the issue from now on. They can't get the public too riled up or it'll be another item on the laundry list of things they will protest about.

1 comment:

  1. why not the crowd should help the poor guy get a licence and end his grief. the law has to be observed.