Hawker champ eyes Legco

Top News | Adeline Mak 15 Jul 2016

Hong Kong Polytechnic University lecturer Lau Siu-lai, nicknamed "Teacher Siu Lai" after she shot to fame during the Occupy movement in 2014, is considering a tilt at the Legislative Council to give a voice to hawkers.

The left-leaning democracy fighter is known for her promotion of hawking and street markets, which also led to a court conviction in June and a fine of HK$1,800 for selling fried squid.

Lau, from PolyU's communication and social sciences department, is eyeing the Kowloon West constituency for September's elections.

She recalled a female hawker surnamed Wong at Day Time Market in Sham Shui Po who had inspired her to run. The hawker had told her: "I can finally make a living without fear."

Lau is advocating for the government to distribute the long suspended hawker licenses, and allow street markets throughout the SAR's 18 districts to give more choice to consumers.

It is not just an option for grassroots to make a living, but also a chance for the middle class to get a glimpse of grassroots life, she said. The realization to support hawkers came last year when she stood by the side of Lunar New Year hawkers at the Kweilin Street Night Market in Sham Shui Po -- the same place where she was arrested in February.

The scholar recalled she told was hawking as an act of civil disobedience, but would not plead guilty.

"The one who ought to feel guilty should be those oppressing the grassroots. No sympathy was paid to the old lady who pleaded guilty before me, who is the kind of elderly you would rush to give her a hand on the street, but everyone in court was looking down on her, treating the underprivileged who wants to stand on her own feet as a thief," she said.

Lau is facing a disciplinary hearing by PolyU following her conviction, based on her "moonlighting" as she profited HK$10 from the hawking. "I never regret what I have done for the hawkers. It actually pushes me further in fighting for justice for them," she said.

Before the conviction, she had been holding Kweilin Street Day Markets in Meifoo, Sham Shui Po and Wong Tai Sin, to show the government that street markets can be held in an orderly manner.

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