Bugs, Canopies, Developers | WU Ying Lun, Hand

[ “SHARE” Jul-Aug 2012 – What Has Poverty to Do with Me? ] CEDAR’S BLOGGER

Author> WU Ying Lun (Hand), Education and Promotion Officer

“Developer hegemony” has lately become a popular term which resonates with the Hong Kong people. Having joined CEDAR for over two years, I get to meet different people and strongly feel how land distribution and planning are dictating the destiny and quality of life of people from all walks of life.

Recently I took a class in organic farming in Ma Shi Po Village, Fanling. There were so many mosquitoes in the summer that any unprepared visitors walking in the fields would surely be badly bitten. A farmer explained, ‘The plots of land are wasted due to property development, and with nobody to manage the plots, bugs and mosquitoes breed here. A decade ago, you can sleep in the fields and you won’t get bitten.’ So, insect infestation is closely linked with property development and land usage.

The farmer also told us that the 1960s and ’70s wereHong Kong’s golden age of agriculture, and the huge vegetable production could satisfy almost 60% of local demand. Farmers needed to work very hard but they earned well and ate healthily, so their lives were not so bad. Sadly, in recent years developers are squeezing out the farming industry, by coercion they acquire and hoard farmlands, continually threatening the villages’ existence and farmers’ lifestyle.

Back in town, people’s space for existence is even more severely threatened. The No. 4 alarm fire at Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, in December 2011 killed nine, the majority of whom lived in partitioned rooms. After the accident a woman spoke out at a local housing policy symposium: She and her daughter live in a partitioned room in an old building in Wan Chai, and apart from having to pay the ever rising rent, conflicts among neighbours are frequent because of the crammed space and so she worries about her family’s safety.

I found it most shocking when the woman spoke of her criteria in choosing her room: she would pick a unit on the third floor, and from there would look out of the window to see if a canopy is below it so that should a fire break out, she and her daughter could escape by jumping out of the building and be saved by the canopy. It is unbelievable that while Hong Kong ranks high in economic development, its quality of accommodation is so appalling that residents are constantly worried about their lives!

If Hong Kong continues to be dominated by property development whilst other sectors are being squeezed out, it would be a depressing development indeed! The Treasury is not utilising its huge budget surplus well but thoughtlessly gave every resident HK$6,000. The government’s recent extravagance, which opted for “social harmony” rather than meet the long-term needs of the poor, is disappointing! I have two sincere wishes regarding Hong Kong’s future: first that there be diverse industries and second, the government would give priority to the needs of the poor when distributing resources!

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