The government’s environmental hygiene watchdog claims it found “no suspected breaching of cleanliness offences” from two illegal concrete plants in Yau Tong and says that zero prosecutions have been initiated involving environmental hygiene in the area around the plants.
In response to questions from Transit Jam, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) says it has visited the Yau Tong area 18 times in the last year but has found no reasons or evidence to bring about prosecutions against the plants.
FEHD’s claims contrast with regular evidence observed at the plants. Over at least half a dozen visits in the last six months, Transit Jam has witnessed possibly hundreds of alleged hygiene violations, with dirt, cement, chemicals and mud transferred from truck wheels as they leave the illegal plants and drive onto the public streets.
In mid-February, plant workers were seen using public streets to transfer chemicals from tankers into barrels using small leaking pumps and leaving a foamy residue on the street.
The government has failed to shut down the China Concrete plants at Tung Yuen Street, despite the firm operating without valid licences. The bandit plants, represented by former justice chief Rimsky Yuen, lost a High Court appeal against their licence revocation in January, after losing two earlier appeals.
In 2020 FEHD pledged to clamp down on leaking cement trucks in the district, in response to hundreds of complaints from residents and district councillors. “If any material such as mud is found to be left on the road, we will report to the person concerned and prosecute,” said FEHD in a written response to a District Council Working Group set up to tackle the problem several years ago.
But three years after that promise, the whole block is still a mess of sludge, up to two inches thick in places, and drains are blocked by the thick oozy plant and truck discharge.
Despite failing to live up to its 2020 pledge, FEHD last week repeated its earlier promise: “The FEHD will closely monitor the enquired public place and suitably adjust its action plans in light of actual circumstances, so as to improve environmental hygiene,” said a spokesman in response to questions on the poor hygiene and environment in the area.
Netizens have been quick to point out alleged double-standards between FEHD’s zero enforcement at the illegal concrete plants and its treatment of other more vulnerable citizens after a high-profile incident last week where the watchdog confiscated a chestnut cart from a 94-year-old licensed hawker.
The hawker, who’d been running the hand-cart legally for decades, had stepped away for a bathroom break leaving the cart in the hands of an unlicensed in-law. Police and FEHD officials stepped in, arrested the in-law for unlicensed hawking and took the cart as evidence, even as the woman begged them not to destroy her livelihood.
FEHD has also clamped down on other hawkers in the last week, moving on a chestnut chef outside Kowloon Tong station as just one example. Those Kent Road cart owners were notorious for keeping the area around their cart and customers clean, with the licensed hawkers regularly seen sweeping up.
FEHD officials claim the hawker enforcement action is important to “protect people’s health.” Yet while FEHD concentrates on large-scale operations against elderly hawkers, residents in Yau Tong see little action protecting their health against the might of the China Concrete plants. A resident concern group on Facebook says the plants have a “serious impact on the livelihood of people in the area” and have shared video of many infractions from the plant over the years, including building materials leaking into the sea.
In those cases, FEHD and the Environmental Protection Department have said they are not responsible for pollution at sea, while Marine Department has said pollution is not its responsibility.