Hidden discreetly along a path behind Chung Uk Tsuen, is another illegal business funded by ISS-HK with tax dollars. Mr. Cheung is a shrewd slum lord who for several years profited handsomely from refugees’ rent assistance. Business has been good, but the times are changing. Five refugees live in the outer huts that survived a blaze and storm in recent months. Life is always at risk where building rules are contravened for profit.
Vision First remains deeply concerned that the government has failed to monitoring the approval of refugee housing, while authorizing the payment of tens of millions of dollars to slum lords each year. Why do government departments continue to turn a blind eye? How does this happen in a city that takes great pride in the rule of law and clean administration? Are refugee lives less valuable than those of residents?
Mr. Cheung’s investment was struck twice by misfortune. In the summer, a fire broke out in a section of the slum and even ISS-HK decided that the affected rooms could not be rented without refurbishment. In September, typhoon winds tore down other rickety shacks, leaving only five metal-sheet ones standing. Then the slum lord was forced to spend money on renovation to secure more illicit profits.
The photos below reveal the extent of the work that is not driven by humanitarian consideration, but by exploitative calculation. How many rooms in what layout will maximize payment from ISS-HK? What room size will case workers approve? Should rooms have windows? Air-conditioning for ventilation? How many washing areas and toilets are acceptable for 20 people? What sewerage?
The planning was done before the government announced last week a rent increase from 1200$ to 1500$. Today Mr. Cheung is probably rubbing his hands together with greedy glee, unaware of Vision First’s determination to hurt his income. We will make weekly visits to this site, take photos and report to relevant authorities to ensure that ISS-HK does not settle a single refugees in this newly built ghetto.
Sometimes our activism makes a difference.
click above to see a refugee ghetto under construction