daily cloudt

Daily Cloudt: Hong Kong Occupy Wall Street – Mind the (Poverty) Gap, 18.10.11

Comment for Naomi Wolf’s Daily Cloudt (now defunct).

Over 300 ‘Occupy Hong Kong’ activists gathered at the city’s Stock Exchange on Saturday, October 15th. In a city of 7 million, the turnout surpassed expectations as demonstrators fought to raise awareness of the territory’s shamefully high income disparity. From the outside, it would seem that Hong Kong escaped the worst of the financial crisis – personal US$700 bail-outs are being offered to all residents, families in public housing are enjoying free rent for 2 months and the government is even subsidising electricity bills. However, beneath the Tiger Economy’s glittering skyline, hailed as the world’s freest economy and its third most favoured tax haven, the ex-British colony also sports the region’s widest poverty gap.

The UN Gini Coefficient rates Hong Kong society as the most unequal amongst all highly developed economies with the wealthiest 10% of the populace controlling more than a third of the city’s income. Meanwhile, an estimated 5,000 people live in 15sq foot ‘cage homes’. These squalid shoebox ‘coffins’ are often shared between a dozen occupants, subdivided with wire mesh. As well as boasting one of the highest population densities in the world, the territory’s property rental market is also the world’s most expensive. Incredibly, the poorest end up paying more per square foot than those in top-end lavish studios.