Friday, December 25, 2009
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During this holiday season, please reflect on how lucky many of us are as compared to the millions of people who are homeless and destitute worldwide. Though these people are not living on the streets, their situation is still a far cry from decent and not conducive to health habitation.
Hong Kong is a vibrant city chock-full of people — so much so that the quality of life for those at the bottom tier is atrocious. And I’m not talking about, “Oh my goodness, I have to share a bathroom with my brother and sister.” I’m talking about up to 18 strangers being smashed into a tiny 625 square foot flat with just one toilet to share.
One such former cage-dweller is Chau Kam-chuen. Mr. Kam-chuen used to be one of over 400,000 working poor who paid approximately $167.6 USD to live in such an environment. According to him, it’s extremely uncomfortable, especially if you get the top bunk: “You hit your head on the ceiling.”
The way it works is that a flat is chosen and then partitioned into multiple cubicles, each composed of wooden planks and wire mesh. Each cubicle then becomes home to one resident.
The cage that the woman sits in above contains all her possessions, from clothes to cooking supplies and even family heirlooms. Realistically speaking, the cage is smaller than a jail cell; yet, these cages house thousands of poverty-stricken men and women who have nowhere else to turn.
And they aren’t comfortable either. Oftentimes, the air-conditioning and heating doesn’t work. Or if it does work, it rarely gets turned on before 9pm. As Lai Man-law, an employed man from Hong Kong explained, “It’s dirty and hot. There are cockroaches and bedbugs, and the air-conditioning doesn’t work.”
One wonders though why someone would choose to live like this. Most of these people have no alternative option. These are normal everyday citizens who befell upon hard times and ended up unemployed, homeless, and struggling to make ends meet. The horrific floods of 2008 didn’t help either, as it forced many into homelessness and poverty.
'Phantoms and Monsters'
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