We call him “Russia”, although his real name is Leo, because he hails from Leo Tolstoy’s country. His experiences and his namesake speak convincingly of an aphorism applicable worldwide and here in Hong Kong: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”.
Leo sleeps on a sofa at the Refugee Union to avoid being homeless, not owing to this winter cold that barely tickles Russians, but owing to the disgrace of his unavoidable predicament. In fact, upon registration he politely asked if he could sleep on the rooftop to avoid being out on the street.
Urban refugees who either don’t have a home, or don’t have money to pay rent surplus, lament the humiliation of being let down by the authorities that treat them indifferently, to say the least, as if condemning human beings to physical suffering and psychological despair were a customary prerogative of power.
There was a time, and not so long ago, when refugees received no help at all. The dark ages ended in 2006 with the introduction of meagre assistance, but today is hardly a progressive time as welfare seems formulate to include deprivation and punishment. Vision First contends that perhaps ‘no aid’ is preferable to ‘some aid’ because those with much to hope, have nothing to lose in activism.
Let’s consider two aspects, housing and food, before drawing conclusions. First, unrealistic rent assistance force hundreds of refugees into the grip of slum lords, who think nothing of verbal abuse and, in extreme cases, criminally intimidation. Last week, in another extreme case, landlord thugs launched dogs against refugees and threw burning paper into rooms in arson attacks.
Second, failed food distribution generates a host of alarming practices: the widespread and mysterious phenomenom of deminishing rations; substandard and undesirable products that encourage the ‘revolving door scam’; profiteering through questionable merchandising practices, and inferior or rotten produce; and, in one extreme cases, distribution of contraband milk.
Vision First is reluctantly becoming the reporter and repository of ‘extreme cases’ that seem to shed their extremeness as they increasingly become more prevalent and less surprising. Refugee victims regularly file police reports, but lament that perpetrators avoid prosecution as demonstrated by the persistence of their actions. Are certain social groups fair game for abuse?
Apathy in law enforcement is indicative of a selective application of law and order, as resident victims might arguably experience a swifter and less biased application of criminal law. Beyond apathy, it is the way laws and regulations to upheld justice at times work against the justice they should upheld, to the point that the police might be less inclined to pursue local goons when they can take an easy shot at people perceived as enjoying lesser human rights.
Thus, are refugees perceived as second-class victims already submerged in criminality? Is their victimization tolerated within the culture of rejection? Why does guilt seem to circle back to them? Do we all share the blame in turning a blind eye to such developments?