Monday, 8 August 2011

Simple Pleasures Beyond Reach

Back in October I wrote about how shocked I was to discover that some 1.26 million people in Hong Kong live on HK$100 a day.

And now I read in the paper that many school children from low-income families are deprived of typical Hong Kong sightseeing trips to places like The Peak and Hong Kong Park because they can't afford it.

A survey by the Hong Kong Research Association and International Social Service (Hong Kong) interviewed 893 primary and secondary school students from families receiving government welfare or other subsidies.

Almost 60 percent said they had never been to The Peak, 62 percent to Hong Kong Park in Admiralty, and 55 percent to the Space Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The survey conducted two months ago also found 34 percent of these children wanted a computer the most, followed by visiting tourist spots, then taking part in activities outside of school. Some even wanted to have a private tutor to help them in their studies.

But perhaps most heartbreaking was that 12 percent just wanted to be able to have a birthday cake.

Other shocking statistics include 13 percent only being able to buy milk once a week, while 12 percent said they couldn't even afford it. Sixty-three percent said their families could not afford special foods during festivals like mooncakes for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival.

Robert Ng Yat-cheung of the Hong Kong New Arrivals Services Foundation said there was an urgent need to improve the quality of life for these children in low-income groups.

"The Peak and Hong Kong Park are common places for family outings, but many of these young people from needy families are deprived of such fun," he said.

Ng added that in 2006, Hong Kong dumped some 450,000 computers a year, "But many of our needy students do not have a computer of their own. It reflects a worrying fact that Hong Kong has a wide income gap."

How can this be happening? Why is there such a disconnect between the haves and have-nots?

Hong Kong is one of the most consumer-driven cities in the world which gives everyone the impression its people are doing well financially which is hardly the truth.

Why can't non profits gather these dumped computers and hand them out to these kids? Moreover why can't these children get access to programs where they can visit these Hong Kong tourist sites? Some are free and some have a small admission fee. And what about a milk subsidy? Can't the Hong Kong government use the HK$6,000 handout to each permanent resident and give it to those who really need it?

It is an absolute disgrace that Hong Kong cannot get its act together in terms of social services for the needy. It is supposed to be a rich city, wealthy financially but also in terms of taking care of its less privileged to give them a chance to move up in the world.

Where is Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and his administration in helping to close the income gap?

Or are they too busy cozying up to business to realize Hong Kong really does have poor people?

1 comment:

  1. sign of the sick widening gap between the rich and poor in hong kong. what a shame. there are rich people spending millions to celebrate a baby's birthday while others can't even afford the tram fare going to the peak.