Hong Kong officials claim to care about housing and hygiene. What about the homeless?
- Officials have turned their attention to the city’s rat and housing problems, or are at least seen to be doing so
- But when are they going to check on homeless people, whose numbers have grown alarmingly during the pandemic?
And that’s a good thing, because we have been running on near-empty, with one last drop of perseverance in the tank, during our long isolation from the Covid-19-ravaged world and our zero-Covid motherland.
Truly a work of Hong Kong-style ingenuity, “reverse quarantine” may just help us overcome the obstacle to the border reopening with the mainland. While only the full resumption of restriction-free border passage can allow the nation to turn its blueprint for developing an innovative and economic powerhouse in the Greater Bay Area into reality, let’s start with a more modest, partial resumption anyway.
No commitment to reform and opening up can be honoured if the corridors of integration stay shut. Whether for the sake of national rejuvenation or the preservation of decades’ worth of economic integration between Hong Kong and the mainland, we have a duty to reopen borders.
But airport rankings aside, we need to get on with it and pick up the pace. Rodents and alleys cluttered with abandoned motorcycles have been in the news with the roll-out of the big clean-up campaign by the District Matters Co-ordination Task Force, led by Deputy Chief Secretary Warner Cheuk Wing-hing.
And, as much as the government tries to deny it, those images and clips of senior officials inspecting some of the city’s dirtiest and most litter-strewn corners are political theatre. Cheuk himself said he hoped residents would see the authorities’ determination and ability to boost hygiene in the city.
Well, let’s see. Actually, let’s do better, and turn our attention to a growing problem that has for too long been swept into our underpasses, or left to fester, forgotten, in our parks. I’m talking about homelessness.
Hong Kong’s unaffordable housing, shortage of subsidised flats and widening wealth gap, along with the lack of policies and opportunities for people to escape the poverty trap, are all drivers of homelessness. Official statistics show the number of homeless people in Hong Kong has nearly tripled in 10 years. Female street sleepers increased about eightfold.
In addition to the birth rate, the homeless rate should be included among this government’s key performance indicators.
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA