length is protected by old pipes and wires lined up on the wall, with 10 cubicles stacked on each side. It is separated. Their inhabitants (faces covered in white masks in the breathtaking heat) are fans, leaking sinks, and blocked windows that provide harsh views of the back alleys outside. Here, 20 people share one toilet. This is a privilege to pay three times the rent to halve the number of fellow users who have to share their toilet with the next few people.
This is the interior of a 400 square foot flat that sits quietly in the mezzanine of the dilapidated building of Shamshuipo. Very high real estate prices, extreme wealth inequality, freewheeling capitalism, and more recently theanti-Beijing protestfaced even more severe control by China over the area regained from the British in 1997. Did. It dominated it for over 150 years. Twenty-five years after the city was handed over, it is at the center of the global power struggle between the United States and China, so the city shrinks for civil andpolitical debatesand participation. New concerns have been raised about space. .. There is much less global anger at the old problem, its serious inequality. Such a so-called "cage home" in Shamshuipo is the most obvious sign of that.
About one in five Hong Kongers lived below the poverty line, discounting government welfare. With welfare support, the official figure is kept at about 8% and still more than 500,000. Over 220,000 people live in so-called "subdivided flats". This is the pretty arrogance of a 4 x 4 x 6 feet space, packed with the poor, trampled, disabled and ignored people in the city at night. I can't see it, outside my heart.
June 13, 2017, Hong Kong Inside the building.
Paul Yeung / Bloomberg via Getty
But many of these tenants are by no means an invisible day. In fact, they are everywhere, cleaning city streets and sewers, loading and unloading goods, waiting for customers in thousands of restaurants scattered across the subway, and placing people at store counters and offices. I am. They make up an army of workers that are energizing Asian financial hubs, but the wages are so low that they can't even rent a decent sized apartment, let alone buy it. It shouldn't cost $ 700 a month to pay for the primitive shelter they evacuate, but housing in cities where more than half of young people are below median wages and it takes an average of six years for families to be publicly allocated. Living with dignity, or something similar, is not cheap.
One of the subconsciousities of some of the city's more privileged citizens is the notion that the cage house and its inhabitants belong to a radically different Hong Kong, are foreigners, and do not exist. As the news cycle wants a flashy and more exciting story in the city, whether it's a financial and commercial gateway to China or a permanent symbol of a geopolitical fault line. Away from the same part, the pitiful one between two competing ideologies. In the eyes of many who have long benefited from Hong Kong's overkill, fundamental poverty is a fact of,for those who are exhausted during the day and sleep in shoeboxes at night. like.
There is a housing crisis in Hong Kong. This is not due to a shortage of supply itself, but to a shortage of affordable housingIt will take 23.2 years to earn a median total household income, without cost. You will be able to buy a mid-priced apartment. The result is disastrous. Young people grew up with little or no outlook for social mobility, and their childhood was spent choking on spaceless conditions. Retirees living on a small profit die alone, a problem exacerbated by ongoing pandemics and lack of medical support for cage home residents. I have been urgently raising funds and medicines for the tenants of Cage Homes in Zenwan and Kwai Chong, the districts that were hit by the first major blockade under the deadly fifth wave of the Pandemic for two months this year. Spent on. The social support received by the residents was minimal at best.
Read more:How Hong Kong became the biggest COVID-19 problem in China
How here Did you arrive at? There is no brief explanation. Those who attribute the crisis to speculative investors from mainland China have little to do with the low-end affordability of the real estate market. Nor do those who abandon "unrestricted capitalism" for all get it. To understand Hong Kong's current illness, we need to look at history.
In 1972, the British colonial government sought to extend Hong Kong beyond the already highly urbanized islands of Hong Kong and the Kowloon region. New Territory was a vast rural, low-density land north of the city and a natural place for development. The administration has implemented a small house policy, asking indigenous villagers to open a courtroom. This guarantees government funding and land provision for all indigenous male villagers to build one house. This policy, inherited by the Hong Kong government after the transfer, served only to limit the supply of non-indigenous developable land. In 2017, Carrielam, the city's retiring chief executive, sought a "reasonable solution to this problem." The new modusvivendi, which balances the interests of all parties, is a huge need for time.
Congested housing unit in Hong Kong A complex facility in the Quarry Bay area.
Alex Ogle / AFP via Getty Images
Responsibility to indigenous villagers who are as part of the city as any other city Citizens who should not be. Instead, responsibility should remain with those who can and must resolve conflicts of interest through political insight. Since Sir Hadon Cave took office as the city's financial secretary in the late 1970s, the city's administration has generally adhered to "aggressive non-interventionism" as its guiding financial ethics.
With minimal taxes and stunning appeal to foreign capital and businesses backed by strong legal infrastructure, successive governments continue to pursue market-friendly industrial policies after delivery in 1997. I avoided a typical design. This policy has generated 10-20% of government revenue directly from the government's sale of land over the last few decades.
The problem is structural and should not be individualized by the accusations of specific bureaucrats or officials. And, in fact, it shouldn't be reduced to a Mannish lens. It was the real estate developers and civil services that caused the crisis. The game of blame may be suitable for people with a political agenda, but it has little effect on improving the suffering of those who desperately need a ladder from deep-rooted poverty.
Read more: One country, two systems are still the best model in Hong Kong, but they need terrible reforms
You can do many things. Long-term solutions aimed at improving the supply of public housing have been widely advertised with the aim of allowing tenants to ultimately become homeowners. In the short to medium term, it may also help to build compact yet well-maintained, humane and hygienic temporary housing, rent management and doubling subsidies. By empowering a shortage of talented but dedicated community organizations and financially and resource-rich associations, we can rekindle public-private partnerships in cities where trust in the government has been severely challenged in recent years. increase. More basically, we need a robust education and employment safety net designed to provide people in the dark lower abdomen of the city with a viable ladder from structural poverty. As the city looks to the new administration, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, the time for transformative action to help the poor is more ripe than ever.
In Hong Kong, there are few lies that are older and sweeter than local proof. “If you work hard for a long time, you will be able to own your own home.” In fact, it's like a dream. Thinking about the face of the neon-lit corridor of closed mouth fear that I walked during the COVID-19 outbreak, I recall two lines from Wilfred Owen'sDulcet et DecorumEst. Helpless spectacle / He plunges into me, rattling, choking, and drowning.