Vietnamese still choose streets of Hong Kong over home, for a variety of reasons

One ran out of money for hospital bills in Vietnam so he entered city illegally to continue medical treatment, while a couple fled debtors; all ended up living under a Kowloon bridge with ex-boatpeople

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 11:52am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 12:12pm

Among homeless Vietnamese people living under a road bridge in the Sham Shui Po district of Kowloon are not just former refugees but fellow countrymen who have arrived more recently, for example to seek medical help or avoid creditors back home. One of them is Ngo Van Duong, 38 who came to Hong Kong two years ago.

Former Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong stuck in cycle of hopelessness under a bridge in Kowloon

“Six years ago, my intestines became infected. I used all my money for treatment in Vietnam, so I came here. Although I’m an illegal immigrant, I can get treatment at a public hospital and an artificial defecation device, which is very expensive in Vietnam.”

Couple Ngauyen Duc Tuan and Mai Thi Thuy left their home in North Vietnam last year to evade creditors. Tuan says his construction materials company went bankrupt and he became heavily in debt.

“We left behind two children who are taken care of by relatives in Vietnam. We don’t see our future here as we are not allowed to work.”

Illegal immigrants receive monthly food vouchers valued at about HK$1,200 from International Social Service while they wait for the government to assess their refugee status, which can take years.

Timothy Lam Kwok-cheung, a priest who has been visiting the homeless in Sham Shui Po, says most of the Vietnamese illegal immigrants he sees are new arrivals.

“I was alarmed when I first saw a man living with his wife and daughter under the bridge. He told me his wife and daughter have just joined him there. So I helped him find a flat in Cheung Sha Wan and help him apply for subsidies.”