Shortly before 9pm on 4 May 2014, a furious caretaker roared into the Slum That Rose Like A Phoenix to carry out orders from slum land Mr. Kwan. The henchman had to kick a refugee family into the street as a stark warning to 20 ISS-HK clients crammed into that derelict, abandoned chicken farm.
Two weeks earlier Bangladeshi Mohammad had begged the caretaker’s wife, and landlord’s sister, “Please give me more time. I don’t have money to pay!” when presented a 1700$ handwritten demand note for electricity use in March.
Winter and summer, the “utilities racket” – calculated by head-count including infants – torments the residents of the 65 slums exposed by Vision First, without concern or control by indifferent ISS-HK case workers who sponsored and support what The Guardian calls “Hong Kong’s Dirty Secret”.
Mohammad, his Indonesian wife Hana and one year-old boy were away when the caretaker raided the room without warning. The front door was broken open with criminal fury. Then the bed and cabinets were smashed and kitchenware, clothes and toys scattered outside without mercy.
Recalling the destruction, Hana later lamented, “The crazy man broke our mobile phones and threw the baby trolley into the jungle! He dumped our food outside the door and broke everything inside. We try to pay 1700$ for electricity every month to them, but where we find money if we cannot work?”
She continued, “We called the police and the landlord arrived with two gangsters talking bad to [swearing at] my husband. They try to fight with my husband. The CID told them not to do like this. I was very afraid for my husband, myself and my baby. The police took us to Kamtin station, not them.”
Despite the police being present, Hana recalls, “The sister [caretaker’s wife] closed mobile, so the landlord said, ‘If you cannot pay electricity bill, you don’t stay here. You go! You take all your things and go out from here. I will cut electricity and close water. You go away!”
Hana explained, “For two years I paid the [extortionary] electricity and water bill. But when I ask for the original bills he never show me. He just writes on the paper electricity coming how much, and that is what we must pay. Every month come the bill like that, around 1700$. He just counting the money … counting … counting …”
“I cannot go back,” shaken Hana said, “I am very scared. Those people are not good people. If there is problem they bring many people, like gangsters. This owner coming and threaten people. This owner is crazy people. When asking money, [there is] too much shouting. He just want more, more money. Everyone is scared of him. When he comes everyone just keep quiet.”
Hana recounts how her helpless family became homeless, “Sunday night at 1am we left everything and only took one bag. We will never sleep there again. We are even afraid to go back to pick up our things. We stayed in the Kamtin garden near the market. It was raining too much. We didn’t know where to go. We stayed there all night. We didn’t sleep.”
Hana explained the fear, “Why are we scared too much? When CID bring us in the car, the landlord called me and said, ‘If you go to police station, you don’t talk too much! You just keep quiet! Don’t talk anything about me, because I will give you problem! You understand, right?”
She continued “I made loudspeaker and said to CID, ‘Ah Sir, you hear what he telling me?’ and CID said, ‘I know your owner is local person. So better you move from there because your life is in danger.’”
“When we were with CID” Hana elaborated “the landlord said nothing, but when we left he said, ‘I will give you problem’, so my life and my husband’s life and my baby’s life is in danger. He is resident, right? I am only refugee. So if he give me problem, then me how …?
On 5 May 2014, the family reported the incident to ISS-HK and sought assistance. Their case worker Tanya Tse called the landlord and reported the obvious while overlooking the criminal behaviour, “Your owner call you, he said you have balance 2000$ and you cannot keep, so he do like this.”
Hana asked, “What can you do for me? You are my officer.” Then Tanya Tse replied, “Because I don’t know who is right and who is wrong, you or your owner, so I cannot do anything!” Charming!
To make matters worse, when the family arrived at 16:45 at the ISS-HK Tsuen Wan office, after their monthly report to Immigration, the security guards stopped them from entering and meeting Tanya Tse.
Vision First is deeply concerned that ISS-HK case worker Tanya Tse failed to protect a vulnerable and homeless family in their hour of need. Tanya Tse had a fiduciary duty to assess the danger faced by her clients and to ensure that criminal damage to property and criminal intimidation were reported to the police.
Despite being fully aware of the dangerous situation, Tanya Tse showed no concern about her clients’ safety and where they would spend the following two nights, May 6 being a public holiday.
There was clearly no humanitarian spirit to settle and protect helpless victims of criminal abuse, who remained homeless while Tanya Tse returned to the comfort of her home to enjoy the Buddha’s Birthday – unconcerned and indifferent in typical ISS-HK fashion.