A local district councilor is calling for a magistrate to show mercy in the case of an elderly used cardboard collector who stands accused by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) of unlicensed hawking after selling one used box for HK$1 in April.

Eastern District Councilor Lai Chi-keong told Metro Daily that while the 75-year-old woman, surnamed Chu, was pushing a trolley of recyclables to a collection point in Sheung Wan on April 11, a domestic worker approached her and paid her HK$1 for a cardboard box.

Six FEHD officers observed the transaction and intervened to arrest Chu and seize the trolley she was using, which belonged to her friend. Chu, who collects and recycles cardboard boxes to earn a meager living, reportedly implored the officers to reconsider but without success. Her case is scheduled for June 21 at Eastern Magistrates’ Court.

In a letter of mitigation to the magistrate, Lai states that Chu suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, causing her fingers to be severely deformed. She also has high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, requiring regular follow-ups at public hospitals.

Lai’s letter asks the court to show mercy to the defendant by issuing no fines and returning the borrowed trolley, as Chu was seeking merely to support her own self and did not depend on social security assistance from the government despite her hardship.

Oriental Daily reported that the FEHD was reexamining Chu’s case and consulting the Judiciary as to whether to withdraw the charge, according to an unnamed source. A decision is expected before the case is due in court.

Dr Ko Wing-man, Secretary for Food and Health of Hong Kong, said on Saturday that the department would review the possibility of taking enforcement actions on the grounds of both compassion and reason, Apple Daily reported.