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Issue 276

Housing
Hong Kong

[image, unknown] New Internationalist Issue 276


The material that follows has been provided by New Internationalist

Caged

Pipe of strife: cramped conditions mean disputes between lodgers are common. Photo: Go Man Ching.
The people in these photographs are now too old to make economic miracles in Hong Kong; some 10,000 of them live as outcasts in cages near the heart of the city.

'Miracle' makers: many of the lodgers migrated from the Chinese mainland in 1940s and 1950s and worked as manual labourers or on the harbour piers. Photo: Leung Yiu Wing.
In 'bedspace apartments' of 100 people or more they occupy a single bed in rows of bunks two or three tiers high. To protect themselves and create a symbolic sense of privacy some fix wire and locks around their bunks, which have come to be called 'cage-homes'.

Cage-apartment crush: 400 lodgers were evicted from this building in May 1991. It was demolished and replaced by a 20-storey luxury residential tower block. Photo: Suen Shu Kwan.
The lodgers receive a maximum pension from the Hong Kong Government of $232 per month, and pay on average $64 for their cages. They live in constant fear of fire, theft and the spread of disease. Most suffer from respiratory illness.

Chan Yin: she's 76 and has lived in a cage for 30 years. In mainland China she mowed grass and sun-dried sugar cane. Her daughter is 60. Photo: Kevin, Lee On Man.
On Christmas Eve 1990 six people were killed and 50 injured in a cage-apartment fire in Shamshuipo. On Lunar New Year's Day in 1993 Mok Choi, an elderly lady, froze to death in the cage-apartment at 56 Fuk Tsuen Street.


'I have a feeling that I am an animal inside a zoo, being observed from all sides,' says this lodger. Photo: Leung Yiu Wing.
The apartment blocks are constantly being demolished. The lodgers have no security and so must somehow find another cage-home. Protests have been made to the Hong Kong Government, which has so far made little positive response.

 

Mr Dick, whose shoes these are, was once a police inspector. Lodgers are prone to attack by 'tanks' (bugs) and 'air raiders' (mosquitoes). Photo: Sin Wai K
The pictures that appear here were taken with the permission of the lodgers, to support the protest.

Mr Dick, whose shoes these are, was once a police inspector. Lodgers are prone to attack by 'tanks' (bugs) and 'air raiders' (mosquitoes). Photo: Sin Wai K





Ho Hei Wah
Society for Community
Organization, Hong Kong

©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996

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New Internationalist issue 276 magazine cover This article is from the February 1996 issue of New Internationalist.
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