The Working-Class Hong Kong

Over the turbulent summer of protest in Hong Kong, five clear demands arose from the city’s protesting population: The complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, the resignation of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, an independent inquiry into police brutality during peaceful demonstrations, the release of those arrested during demonstration, and for universal suffrage for all Hong Kong citizens.

For many protesters, however, these demands are not enough.

Since the worldwide economic crisis of 2008, income inequality and the housing market in the Chinese island city has taken a steep turn for the worse. In a 2018 study conducted on International Housing Affordability, Demographia found that the median house price in Hong Kong is nearly twenty-one times that of Hong Kong’s median household income. This marks the ninth consecutive year of Hong Kong having the most expensive housing on the planet.

Because of this massive income gap, Hong Kong’s younger working-class are often forced to live with their parents until they have a family of their own. Then, they move their new family into cramped apartments that offer an average living space of only 170 square feet, according to the South China Morning Post. The families get to look out from their singular window of their gritty apartments at the view of the elegant Hong Kong penthouses, scraping the skies and dotting the rolling Chinese landscape. All across Hong Kong’s poorest neighborhood, Sham Shui Po, amidst the ramshackle rooftop slums on top of the tiny aging apartments, you can find these words graffitied on the concrete: “7k for a house like a cell and you really think we out here scared of jail?”

The government’s response to the worst housing crisis on the planet has been much less than satisfactory. According to statistics published by the Hong Kong Housing Authority last year, there are more than 150,000 people on the waiting list for public subsidized housing, and the average wait time for applicants is over 5 years. The government has also announced that they will miss their 2027 target of building 280,000 public flats by a shortfall of 50,000 flats. The failure of the government to provide affordable housing means that more citizens will be forced to find overpriced, jail-cell sized apartments in Hong Kong’s despotic private housing sector.

On Sept. 26, Carrie Lam held an open forum with a select group of protesters in an attempt to cool frustrations over the government’s failure to revolve the growing political crisis. While protesters spoke, asked questions, and even yelled at her, Lam stared down at her little notepad, not even taking notes. Her presence at the forum seemly was to provide herself as a punching bag for the angry workers – to stand there and take the blows for government, according to the South China Morning Post.

During the forum, Lam commented that the “protestors have no stake in society,” to which a citizen responded “I just checked Wikipedia – you will be 90 by 2047 [when the one country, two systems policy ends], so it won’t matter to you by then. But I am 26 now and will be 55 by 2047. Do we have a future after that?” Lam’s sobering silence answers the question better than every response to the protestor’s pleas she’s given to date.

While Lam sits in the Chief Executive chair like a lame duck, driving the city into ruin, the gap between Hong Kong’s working class and the Hong Kong rich becomes wider and wider. The government focuses its efforts on economic stimuli to keep rich investors in the city, rather than their citizens list of five demands, which have remained consistent for months. The lack of an efficient response to the nine-year housing crisis and the summer of anti-government frustration proves that Hong Kong’s government truly has no stake in its society, and that Hong Kong’s working-class demonstrators are the only ones left who believe in a society that can provide for all Hong Kong’s citizens.

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