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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 38 No. 22. September 11, 1975



Resettlement is usually in one of the high-rise apartment blocks which look so colourful from the street with washing hanging out a thousand windows. Inside, the reality is a little more grim. Rooms no more than 100 sq. feet house 5-10 people each - they are dark, stuffy and crowded with belongings. Toilet facilities are communal and minimal; there are no kitchen facilities. Most families store some kind of stove on the outside balconies, as well as furniture and other goods. But this causes great congestion. Worse, it is illegal, and local officials have to be 'persuaded to turn a blind eye.

Six or seven people usually live in each of these transit "houses"

Six or seven people usually live in each of these transit "houses"

The overall impression is of people everywhere - the average density of the city is the highest in the world, over ten times greater than the maximum recommended density of British housing development areas. Most noticeable are the children, playing in the dark concrete corridors because there is nowhere else to go, when temperatures outside are in their 30s.

Opposite the apartment block we visited was a swimming pool with two or three hundred children patiently lined up in the hot sun. As one person came out of the pool another was allowed to take his place - the line never seemed to grow very much shorter.

The public housing programme in Hong Kong actually began after a huge squatter fire left 50,000 people homeless on Christmas Day. 1953. The acute shortage of accommodation at that time made single family rooms without toilet tap, kitchen or electricity acceptable They were officially justified on the grounds that the programme was designed to meet an emergency situation. Today, however, the regime continues to provide only the absolute minimum in housing necessary to prevent worker discontent affecting production levels.

The general attitude of the people in power was admirably summed up in the last edition of The Economist' (July 19, 1975), which pointed out to investors that 'taxes will have to rise in Hong Kong (though not by all that much) to pay for the social welfare benefits the administration will have to provide to ensure continued political stability.'

It continued on a more optimistic note:

'But then, investors prize that sort of stability as much as they welcome comparatively low tax rates.' Behind the feeble attempts to relieve the poverty of Hong Kong's working population lies not a concern for the people themselves but recognition that private enterprise can only flourish in a reasonably stable social climate.