Right-Wing Hong Kong Politician/Business Tycoon Made to Work as a Street Sweeper for Two Days
I came across an interesting video posted by Mandy. In an RTHK television segment, Michael Tien, deputy chairman of New People’s Party (a pro-Beijing, right wing party), son of a business tycoon and founder of one of the biggest clothing chains in Hong Kong, is made to work and live as a street sweeper for two days. He lives in one of Hong Kong’s infamous ‘cage’ houses (where your living space is basically limited to your bed) and has to work sweeping streets. No doubt a political ploy as it is an election year, but there’s some interesting quotes and segments.
The first thing he discovers is how poor housing is. He seems a little surprised at his 15 square feet unit, but the representative from the social work department suggested to him that in fact, his space is already considered ‘luxurious’.
Some of the conditions even shocked me though, when the real estate agent told him that someone used to live in the ceiling section of the washroom in one of the rooming units.
He commented, “even the home villages in the Mainland is better than this .. how did Hong Kong become like this?”
In another conversation with the real estate agent, he states “the land really is too expensive”
Agent: “Well, with the real estate developers developing condos here, it just gets more expensive”
Michael: “you’re saying that the high prices associated with the new condos over there affect prices here?”
Agent"Of course, a chain reaction"
Other quotes: “if you just look at it, you won’t believe people lived here. It’s not possible”
“If you’re able to show us your HK ID, show you’re a Hong Kong person, shouldn’t we be able to give you back a ‘decent living’?" We never think like that. We think: ‘Now we’re building public housing. If you don’t accept it and come live here, we say market forces’. The market isn’t necessarily fair or righteous. The market is a dog eat dog world.”
He chats with his coworker, who tells him he works two shifts (earning about $1000CAD a month) to pay for housing. Michael asks why he doesn’t he live in public housing. The coworker responds that he doesn’t qualify because of the combined earnings between his wife and him. Michael comments, “A married couples’ total earning exceed the limit, meaning that they don’t qualify for public housing. But he still is forced to work two jobs. So, in the end of the day, you’re still stuck in a death alley (I don’t know how to translate this). The question is, is our public housing qualification too stringent? Does it actually address today’s circumstances?”
He struggles to find affordable transportation to go to work in the morning as most of the cheaper options don’t open till 6. The options available are more expensive.
He struggle to find food for lunch and states “rent [for the restaurants] are really too high.
"I used to never think of eating at 大家樂 because I considered it fast food, but now I can’t even afford to eat there
"It’s odd. For the past two days I wasn’t able to think of anything other than food, I didn’t even get to day dream. I work so hard just to have a good meal. I understand now why most people can’t even think about the next week, let alone the future. The most important thing is dinner.”
He complains about how tiring work is, and then realized all his ‘coworkers’ were preparing for a second night shift
Michael Tien asks “with so little money and such hard work, noone would want to do this. Why is Hong Kong so strange?”
My response: Because of politicians and the capitalists like you…
And Hong Kong isn’t strange at all… this is the norm under capitalism, colonialism, etc.
Interestingly, Michael states, “the type of economic system that makes working-class people live through these squalid conditions/rooming houses is immoral, this doesn’t make sense”
He ends with,
I used to think of having clean streets as a given. But if you asked me whether I ever thought of how much sweepers earned? How they lived their lives? In full honesty, I never thought about it.
Once I think about how in this world, even the most simplest of tasks [cleaning] can be so specialized and take so much skills. And then I think about how the cleaners are so much more effective at doing things I struggled so much with, and yet all they earn is $5000HKD a month. I really find it odd. I think this world really ‘punishes’ people that don’t have an educational background. We always talk about bringing wealth and development, but what about these people? And these people aren’t doing nothing, they’re really contributing and have a lot of skills.
But right now, with sweepers, the government puts it up to open tender. It’s privately outsourced. I think the government has a responsibility to look at the skills these people have and how they contribute to society, and ask whether these people have a fair return for their work.
Given my experience here, I can only see the weaker getting weaker. The government needs to address this and not just let everything be up to the market.
Let’s see what he does next…