• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 2:42pm
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


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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This article is now closed to comments

Isn't it time for tax payers or Hongkongers or citizen 老百姓 to take a good look into the extraordinary and way out perks (remnant of Colonial past) given so larvishly to the Government servants?
There should be a limit to how free a market is. What is distorts a free market is the rampant money washing machine which is the only purpose the HK SAR is allowed to exist today. What is amazing is that the media dares not point out the reason Mainland "shoppers" would buy all that jewelry and 15 watches at a time is because these twinkles are instruments of money laundering, not to be worn but as ways to get around the amount of RMB one can carry out of China. The businesses which benefits from these "purchases" are in fact the money launderers. The money trickling upwards to the landlords. The net effect is to price McD out of Causeway Bay for more of these money laundering operations, with the collateral effect of driving up rent for eateries, bars, and homes to the point of being unaffordable. What happens when staples such as a bowl of wonton gets priced out of what the average worker can afford? Long term, the nutrition which can be afforded by the poor goes down, and then the health of the population suffers, pushing healthcare costs upwards. Quite frankly, HK is being managed by an aristocracy who don't care about the people, who are not afraid of any potential backlash because they can flee to Shanghai or Shenzhen having been so compliant to the CCP. No longer the continued digestion of HK, the chewing phase has begun. What are we waiting for, little kids with Kwashiorkor tummys like in Africa? It is coming.
Maybe the government will reconsider the state of Hong Kong when the homeless numbers grow into the tens of thousands and they take to the parks and sitting out areas in the city thus making mockery of the "Asia's World City" claim.
They'll also be on display for the millions of mainland shoppers and other tourists to clearly see and whisper amongst themselves "but this place looks so rich with all the Rolex dealers and Gucci boutiques!"
of the civil servants
for the civil servants
by the civil servants
even with universal suffrage installed
Ah yes Michael carries a US passport
WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.
More than 46 million Americans live in Poverty USA.
Americans families were having a difficult time making ends meet before the recession.
With continuing unemployment and increasing costs of living, more and more families have to choose between necessities like health care, child care, and even food
Chicago Murder capital of USA
American militia
USA has world’s highest incarceration rate
Another pointless, moaning article from Chugani. What are you trying to say? Get out of Hong Kong before it explodes? Go to your country, such as to Washington, where there is free housing for all and no crime and all the Politicians are poor people?
Totally agree
John Adams
Beaker : You make a very perceptive comment ! Last night on TVB 7.30 news there was a report on how (in)effective CEPA has been since it was started. The professionals in HK ( lawyers, architects etc) said CEPA is a total failure for them because the red tape prohibiting them from practicing in HK is as thick as ever before, But then TVB went on to report that the biggest 'difference' CEPA made was the individual visit program to HK from PRC, by which 112 Million Mainlanders had come to HK who would otherwise not have been able to do so, so the jewelry and other luxury goods stores now counted 60% of their customers as Mainlanders, many of whom just come in and buy half a dozen of the same things without blinking. Obviously they are buying for friends and relatives in the Mainland ( or selling for profit ) , so YES this is blatant money-laundering ... or PRC tax-evasion ( or both !)
Meanwhile local traders are being forced out of everywhere - even the mighty McDonalds which - according to one recent report - is (covertly) the world's single biggest property owner
Hong Kong : Asia's World City ! Money-Laundering Capital of Asia !
Welcome CEPA and all the evils it brings
Nobody wants to talk about the poor. After all the general HK citizen needs face.
Michael, You've just described the unfettered characteristics of a free market capitalist economy which manifests profound insecurities and therefore greed and a sad absence of even a modicum of empathy. That lack of empathy clearly demonstrated by one of the responses to your article! Hong Kong is seen by many as the perfect model of the unfettered free market which is to be celebrated by the few, but in reality its the perfect model to manifest a society devoid of conscience and justice that evidently infects those who are given the political responsibility to forge genuine societal care for the needy and vulnerable, and not least, by setting an example. Is this a great model? Well it simply boils down to which cohort you belong to, the 'have alls', the 'have's somes' and the 'have diddly.' Put the Hong Kong politicians on minimum wage....actually, lets be generous, quadruple the minimum wage to compensate for the deep stresses of hipocracy and professional qualifications, skills and knowledge needed, and we might see some changes.....as long as there are any existing non self-interest serving politicians willing to stay on and motivated by heart to fulfill the real job!


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