Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 3:07am

Take a closer look at the true face of our 'glitzy' city

BIO

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.
 

Forget about the glitzy brand-name stores in Central and Causeway Bay that pay outrageous rents to vulture landlords. Yes, the upscale stores and sky-high rents give the impression the city exudes wealth. But it's just the fake facade of Hong Kong; the true face of the city has nothing glitzy about it. Think of the rich guys who moan about how long they have to wait to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to join the Hong Kong Golf Club, which pays the government just HK$1 a year for 170 hectares of prime land for its three Fanling courses. Then think of the 1.3 million Hongkongers who live in poverty - half a million of them are so poor they survive on less than HK$120 a day. Don't ask why virtually none of the millions the glitzy stores and vulture landlords make is trickling down to ordinary Hongkongers. It's always drummed into us that society gets wealthier when the government bends over backwards to implement business-friendly policies, such as opening our door wide to mainland tourists. Well, not only has our government bent over backwards, it has also bowed forward in deep kowtows to the business sector, yet we have 1.3 million poor people. Our policymakers shamelessly take home multimillion-dollar annual pay packages and squander public money on golf tournaments while elderly people scavenge cardboard boxes to survive.

 

Hear, hear, the irony in Carrie Lam's words

One of those on a multimillion-dollar annual pay package is Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Not just that, she lives in a taxpayer-financed mansion on The Peak. She recently boasted that families living in slum homes will get handouts of a few thousand dollars from the Community Care Fund. How generous. But Lam made clear that struggling families in slum subdivided flats in industrial buildings won't get a cent. Why? Because, as she put it, subdivided flats in industrial buildings are "definitely illegal" and the government will not tolerate this. Does she really need Public Eye to tell her these families live in illegal slum flats because they have nowhere else to go? Must we remind her that the public housing waiting list stretches back for years and vulture landlords have priced even middle-class families out of the market? Would she prefer the families in illegal slum flats to sleep on the streets? Or on the vast grounds of her Peak mansion? Would they then qualify for her measly handouts?

 

Do you smell the smoke as HK nears its blasting point?

Don't say we didn't warn you. Hong Kong has become a powder keg, and Sunday's madness in Mong Kok was proof. Three weeks ago, a teacher hurled obscenities at the police for allegedly siding with a Beijing-loyalist group in a dispute with the Falun Gong. A video of the teacher's outburst went viral. Hongkongers started taking sides. Supporters of the police and the teacher staged protests in Mong Kok that turned into mobs. Punches were thrown, obscenities hurled. When something as idiotic as a teacher letting off steam triggers such a backlash, it surely shows the lit fuse is getting awfully close to the powder keg.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and a television show host. mickchug@gmail.com

 

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