Spirit of Hong Kong

Homeless man, 86, finds a peaceful place to call home

When he was forcibly moved on from a mall, Wong Wah found himself a much better life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 12:19pm

Partly disabled rough sleeper Wong Wah has no hard feelings towards staff who manhandled him out of a Mong Kok shopping mall last month, despite public outrage.

And the incident had a silver lining: it brought him to the attention of a priest who specialises in helping people in similar predicaments and who has offered him a place to live.

I was blocking their fire escape. I just slept there because it had rained a lot for a few days
Street sleeper Wong Wah

On June 17, Wong had been sleeping on the fire escape of the Pioneer Centre for one night when staff grabbed his arms and legs and dragged him 100 metres to a nearby empty shop.

That sparked widespread criticism in online forums and protests outside the mall next day.

Asked how he felt about it now, Wong, 86, said the staff had a right to move him.

"I was blocking their fire escape. I just slept there because it had rained a lot for a few days and I wasn't sleeping well as a result. I knew I shouldn't have been there."

He now has a bed in the Lord Grace Home for the Aged in Tai Kok Tsui, one of four such homes overseen by Lord Grace Church's Reverend Lee Mo-fan. Lee says he hopes Wong will stay on although he has already gone back to the streets once, returning after the priest found him begging outside Mong Kok police station on July 3.

"His trousers were soiled with faeces when we found him," Lee said. "He struggled to walk so we realised he hadn't stood up in days. We fed him and helped him take a shower."

Injured in a traffic accident three years ago, Wong walks with a crutch from which he hangs all his possessions.

Previously living in Xiguan, Guangdong, with his wife and five children, he came to Hong Kong in December 1982 after finding that his wife had been cheating on him.

"I worked at two factory jobs to pay the bills and seldom went home," he recalled. "One day, I returned to find a divorce note."

With his two youngest children, a son and daughter, he rented a cheap flat in Fanling, later moving in with the son and his fiancee on Pak Tin Estate, Sham Shui Po.

Twenty years ago, he moved on to the streets. "It got too crowded in our tiny flat, so I moved out to live on the streets because I did not want to burden my son," he said.

His time as a rough sleeper had been precarious, he said.

"You have to look out for yourself. I once had my pockets scissored overnight and hundreds of dollars stolen."

His two eldest daughters and eldest son still live in Guangzhou. His children know he has been living rough, but had no idea he had been hit by a car until about 18 months after he had recovered.

Wong's forced removal from the Pioneer Centre came to light when witness Poon Wing-sze posted it on her Facebook page. "His head nearly hit the floor when they grabbed him by all fours," she said.

Pioneer Centre senior property manager Kelvin Wu Ka-wan said it had been a misunderstanding. "We had previously tried to help Mr Wong find a care home. From a management and safety perspective, we had to make sure the fire escape wasn't blocked," he said.

"We care about Mr Wong, and when Pastor Lee contacted us, we were glad to know that Wong would be in good hands."