Tse lives in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong’s poorest neighborhood. In the most expensive city on earth, where apartments can cost 21 times the average yearly wage, hundreds of thousands of people cram into tiny subdivided flats and “cage homes” barely big enough for a bunk bed.
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Earlier that night, CNN visited Tse’s 140 square foot (13 sq meter) apartment which he shares with his cat, Tai Kwan. Tse works as a courier for a law firm during the week, making around $1300 per month. He spends $740 of that on rent, and he’s proud of his apartment. Despite his place being expensive and cramped, he relishes the freedom it offers — rare for many working-class young people in Hong Kong who live with their parents until they have a family of their own.
“The government should take from the rich and give to the poor so they can live in Hong Kong, too,” Tse said. “The government has never done anything to promote social mobility, instead it has increased wealth disparity and made it more difficult for young people to buy an apartment.”
In particular, public housing remains a key complaint for many working and middle class Hong Kongers. According to government statistics, there are almost 150,000 people on a waiting list for a subsidized flat, and the average wait time is over five years. The government has admitted that it will miss a target of building 280,000 new flats by 2027, with a shortfall of around 50,000, forcing more people into tiny apartments in the private sector.
Graffiti scrawled across the walls of the equally poor neighborhood of Wong Tai Sin captured how economic issues play into people’s willingness to protest: “7k for a house like a cell and you really think we out here are scared of jail?”
It sounds like New York City. And Los Angeles. And San Francisco. And London. And Paris. And Berlin. And any other major free-market city in the world.
Malignant Wealth is destroying the fabric of society all around the world.
Good luck, Hong Kong.