Hong Kong is a wealthy place with a handsome budget surplus – many of us would presume the state takes good care of foreign torture claimants seeking refuge in our city.
However, in reality, many are forced to live in squalid slums in the rural New Territories, subsisting for years on a meagre allowance before being returned to the countries they fled. In Ping Che, Fanling, around 150 Bangladeshi asylum seekers and torture claimants reside in shameful conditions which are an affront to human rights, dignity and social justice…
Some claimants have not been contacted by Immigration for up to 7 years. Despite its international obligations, HK has only ever recognised a total of three torture claimants out of 12,400 applications since 1992. 99.98% of claims were rejected, with the victims often being sent back to the horrors they thought they’d escaped.
The landlord of the dwelling pictured houses 12 distressed refugees – they collect HK$1200 from each person per month. There are no proper walls or roofs, though electricity meters were installed to ensure he earns a profit on utility bills.
The conditions are dangerous by any measure. The structure is exposed to the elements – rain and flooding could spark electrocution whilst lightning could strike the tree. Gas cylinders are kept outside and the shacks are infested by cats, insects, rodents and snakes.
A mother lives in these conditions with a baby, and there are other shanty complexes around Nai Wai, Kam Tin and in the Pat Heung hills.
There is no plumbing or sewerage – kitchens, showers and toilets flow into open conduits infested with insects and rodents. The yard itself is not zoned for residential use and none of the dwellings would be granted any Land Department or Fire Safety approval.
Fearful of draconian jail terms for illegal work (currently 15 months), a financial tourniquet cripples refugees’ survival strategies.
All refugees in HK are getting a raw deal. This year, the UNHCR budget was cut by 30% with refugees now receiving just $300 a month. Although the government provides $1200 to landlords to accommodate refugees, many are being evicted as they cannot work to help pay high rents.
It is easy to forget that so many Hong Kongers were refugees themselves – up to a million crossed into the territory during the 1950s. They made up a third of the population, yet today’s asylum seekers represent 100th of 1%. Surely, HK – with its vast surplus – can afford to allow these people some justice and dignity.
None of them want handouts – but they are not allowed to work. Click here to read some common myths about HK’s refugees.
The above photographs were complied by Vision Now. Below are donation links for the four main refugee charities in Hong Kong…
‘Poverty Amidst Plenty’ – related posts on Hong Wrong…
- Sub-divided Flats – photography by Benny Lam.
- Hong Kong Coffin Homes – by Ko Chung Ming.
- Homelessness in Hong Kong - street sleepers photographed by Lei Jih-sheng.
- Roof-top Slums - portraits of HK’s informal rooftop communities.
- Michael Wolf’s ‘Architecture of Density’ - what some of the city’s ‘shoebox homes’ look like from the outside. See also100×100.
- Political Art of Winnie Davies - focusing on HK’s widening poverty gap.
- Cages, Hookers, Tattoos - photography of HK’s grim underbelly.
- Poverty, Age & Loneliness in HK - shots by Brian Yen.
- The Heart-Warming Kindness of Hong Kong’s Heroes.
- Food Choices on the Hong Kong Poverty Line.
Relevant external links:
- Vision First and FB page
- HK Refugee Advice Centre
- Christian Action - has a centre in Chungking Mansions.
- Seeking Refuge.hk
- Time Out report
- Wikipedia – Refugees in Hong Kong