Long due finale to barbecue drama

Editorial | Mary Ma 24 Nov 2021

The Kau Wah Keng barbecue drama was a complete farce.

Though unlicensed, the two barbecue sites had been operational for almost two decades - a period riddled with complaints from residents who had to put up with the fumes and smell from roasting at the sites and traffic snarl-ups in the vicinity.

Government authorities were fully aware of the absurd situation and still appeared to have been powerless over it apart from routinely issuing tickets against the site operators.

Had the media not reported that the sites were doing business as usual, police might not have swooped down to arrest 17 owners and workers, ironically issuing penalty tickets against 82 customers for a breathtaking sum of HK$410,000 while verbally warning hundreds of others present there.

The operation was long overdue and yet the incident was far from being desirable.

The customers had every reason to cry foul because they had scanned a legitimate LeaveHomeSafe QR code at the entrance. Could they have possibly known the sites were unlicensed?

The customers were also victims of an absurdity that had been tolerated for so many years. Was it fair to target them with fixed-penalty tickets of HK$5,000 each? It's a large fine and this power on social distancing should be exercised carefully.

Over the past year, the sites had been summonsed 42 times by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for breaches of regulations. But it always returned to business as usual.

How soon will the barbecue sites be up and running again with bustling business after the crackdown this time?

Due to the strict lockdown policy pursued by the Hong Kong government, barbecue pits in country parks have been closed to the public for a while even though the parks have become people's favored hangouts since the SAR closed its border to quarantine-free travel, making it extremely difficult for residents to travel overseas.

Barbecue is a "healthier option" amid the pandemic.

Will the government consider reopening the barbecue pits in country parks when it is not viable to reopen the border to other parts of the world for quarantine-free travel?

This would be most welcome but the chance is slim in view of the government according absolute priority to keeping local Covid infection to an absolute zero in order to convince the mainland to agree to resume quarantine-free cross-border travel.

As the government enforces the policy with no flexibility, it would be essential to show the public it not only has the ability but also the willingness to act fairly and justly in the greater interest of good governance.

It does not make good sense to close the barbecue pits in country parks just to keep people apart and then turn a blind eye elsewhere. Double standards are the last thing to wish for in good governance.

The Kau Wah Keng incident should not be the last example.



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