Posted by man_14_70904 in Nov 20, 2011, under Videos
Hong Kong’s Cage Men
Posted by man_14_70904 in Nov 20, 2011, under Professional Journalism
Hong Kong, China (CNN) — If you have ever complained that your apartment is the size of a shoebox, consider the living space of Hong Kong resident Chung For Lau.
Chung lives in a 625 square foot (58.06 square meter) flat here with 18 strangers.
The place is sectioned into tiny cubicles made of wooden planks and wire mesh. Everything he has acquired over the years — clothes, dishes, figurines, a tired TV set — is squeezed into this tiny cube, a modernized version of what is known here as a cage home.
With all the buzz over Hong Kong’s exorbitant luxury property (like the recent record-breaking sale of a $57 million duplex), it may be hard to believe that people have been living in cage homes in this city for years.
But with Hong Kong home to some of the most densley-populated urban districts in the world, real estate has always come at a premium, no matter how small.
Chung’s cage is a newer yet less-desirable model, we are told. The wire mesh one, which resembles an over-sized rabbit hutch, is apparently more comfortable.
Occupants have less privacy, but the temperatures don’t get as high as in the wooden-mesh variety. A thermometer in Chung’s home reached 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit). Sometimes it gets so hot, Chung said, that he wants to die.
Chung used to be a security guard. In the good old days he earned about $500 (HK$3,875) per month. But as the economic crisis set in, his full time job went to part time work until he was laid off this past summer.
As he stared into his bank passbook, Chung lamented that he wouldn’t be able to make the $150 rent (HK$1,160) this month — these cubes aren’t cheap.
They are stacked on two levels — $100 (HK$775) for a cube on the upper deck and $150 for the lower bunk.
The lower cubes are more expensive because you can just barely stand upright in them. Do the math and the apartment owner is collecting roughly $2,500 a month (HK$19,375) from these people.
The 19 occupants share two toilets. A small rubber hose attached to a leaky faucet is what they use to wash themselves. Social workers who monitor the apartments said the electricity is donated, so a few of them have TVs. One person on the upper deck has an aquarium.
One social workers said that because of the recession these homes are being occupied more frequently by those made jobless — people in their 30s and 40s. The social worker said none of the younger people wanted to speak on camera for fear their chances of finding work would be hurt.
Chung, 67, is now waiting for welfare to kick in and is on a long list for public housing. The government says it is doing its best to meet its citizens’ needs, but Chung says he has lost all hope. Economic recovery or not, he feels forgotten.
Posted by man_14_70904 in Nov 20, 2011, under What is a Caged Home?
Caged home is the miniature of Hong Kong poverty. It arose in 1950s due to an influx of refugees from mainland China who provided Hong Kong industries cheap labour. Their arrival created a strong demand for low cost bedspace apartments as the Hong Kong Government had no housing and labour protection policy for these low paid workers. Before 1985, singletons were even not allowed to apply for public rental housing. Many single men arrived in Hong Kong with hardly any possessions. They worked as coolies and rented to a 3 ft. x 6 ft. bedspace. They needed to share with tens of households to use one kitchen and one toilet decade after decade. To make more profit, the apartment operators used iron cages to construct bunk beds (two to three beds stacked on top of each other), and so the name ‘caged home’ was coined.
In 1994, the government proceeded with the enactment of the Bedspace Apartments Ordinance to regulate caged homes, but it only concerned the fire safety and sanitation, not the household and living space. The ordinance, which came into effect in 1998, defines caged homes as ‘bedspace apartments’ with 12 or above households in any flat.
At its peak, there were over 500 to 600 caged homes in Hong Kong. Today, there are still nearly 100 of them. However, there are thousands of cubicles houses which are similar to caged homes where about 12 households sharing a flat. According to the Hong Kong Census and Statistic Department, there are about 100,000 people living in inadequate housing, such as caged home and cubicle houses.
Posted by man_14_70904 in Nov 20, 2011, under Citizen Journalism
HONG KONG, May 24, 2007 (AFP) – Space is limited in the cage Kong Siu-kan calls home: a few pieces of clothing are stuffed at one end of his bed, other items perch on a makeshift shelf and a glass of water sits beside his pillow.
Kong’s fellow tenant, 78-year-old Tai Yum-po, has made better use of his space: he hooks his towel, jackets, pot noodles, bags of washing powder and toothpicks to his bed.
Hidden behind the high-rise office blocks and glitzy shopping malls of Hong Kong, a huge number of ordinary people have been left behind by the economic boom since the city returned to Chinese rule a decade ago.
As as international financial hub it boasts some of Asia’s richest people and more Louis Vuitton shops than Paris or New York.
Yet out of its seven million residents, an estimated 1.25 million — people like Kong and Tai — live below the poverty line.
They share a room with nine other men in one of Hong Kong’s notorious “cage dwellings” — small, dingy flats that have been further subdivided into cages where there is no room for anything other than a bed.
For these men, home is four walls of rusty steel wire mesh with a sliding door at one end that allows them to slide in and out.
“I tried to find work for years, but I’m getting old and no one would hire me. So I gave up,” said Kong, a thin, 61-year-old father of two grown-up sons with whom he has lost contact.
“I couldn’t have imagined I would have ended like this but I don’t feel too bad about this any more,” he said.
Official figures show a growing chasm between the rich and poor: one in 15 households in 2006 had a monthly total income of 770 US dollars or less (6,000 HK dollars), four percent more than a decade ago.
Those earning 3,850 US dollars or more a month have risen two percent.
Cage dwellings are just one example of worsening poverty in this southern Chinese territory, where only 35 percent of the 3.4 million working population pays income tax and the top 100,000 earners contribute 60 percent of salaries tax.
Built in the 1940s to accommodate a wave of Chinese refugees fleeing the civil war on the mainland, about 100 cage homes remain, housing some of Hong Kong’s poorest and most downtrodden.
Economically, Hong Kong has had a rough ride of the past 10 years since the end of the colonial era.
It was plunged into turmoil by the Asian financial crisis of 1997 — which sparked a seven-year recession — as well as the fallout of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, avian flu and an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
At its nadir, in early 2003 when SARS plunged the city into psychological and economic depression, home values had fallen 70 percent and gross domestic product slumped to 3.3 percent.
Although the economy has made a full recovery, figures show the number of people on low-paid jobs has risen sharply, as has the number working more than 55 hours a week.
Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, a rights group, said wages that were cut during the economic slump have not returned to pre-1997 levels partly because more jobs have been lost to mainland China.
“One big problem is, even if people have jobs, their salary is very low. We call them working poor,” he said.
Closer integration with China has meant more Hong Kong companies have moved to the mainland to tap into its breakneck growth and cheap labour, leaving the city with fewer jobs and workers forced to accept lower wages to get them.
Low Usick Kan, a scaffold worker of 40 years, said fewer jobs and low pay had forced workers to seek employment in the neighbouring booming casino haven of Macau, where the monthly allowance just for housing and transport is higher than a Hong Kong wage.
Wong Hung, an assistant professor at the social work department of Chinese University, said the absence of a minimum wage policy was also to blame.
“Jobs are getting fewer and fewer but we have more workers with no minimum wage protection. I can only expect the trend of lower income to continue,” he said.
Mr Leung, a Chinese mainland immigrant who did not want to give his first name, works 12 hours a day six days a week as a security guard for 6,000 Hong Kong dollars a month.
His wife brings in an extra 4,000 dollars by working in a restaurant, but they have barely enough to provide for their family of two teenagers.
The outcome: the four are among 130,000 people who live in what is termed “inadequate housing.”
The Leungs live in a cubicle big enough for a bunk bed, a small fridge, a desk and a fold-up table. It has no windows: for ventilation they rely on the draught from holes above the walls.
It is one of 13 sub-units in a dimly-lit, 50-year-old building with flaky walls, wet broken concrete floor in the communal kitchen, a toilet without a seat and another floor with broken tiles.
The blackened ceiling and walls show the age of the building.
“Hong Kong is so great, isn’t it,” Cheung said sarcastically as he sweated on the bunk bed with three fans on full power.
Cheung said the room gets so hot he sometimes sleeps on the tiny area left in the cubicle; the children are forced to study on the bunk bed.
Life might seem more comfortable for Yuen Chi-ming, a cleaner at a swanky air-conditioned office block and who lives in a government-subsidised complex, but he only gets 4,800 dollars a month for working 10 hours a day.
“The rich get richer; the poor get poorer. That’s a fact,” he said.
“There’s nothing we can do. You may get rich by winning the lottery, but that’s only a dream. A lot of people dream about it but it would never come true.”