When I was visiting Japan, my (Japanese) brother-in-law insisted that Japan did not have homeless people. When I pointed out the homeless people sleeping in the subway, and the park with tents filled with destitute folks, he conceded that yes, Tokyo might have some homeless people, but they are HAPPY to be that way, and everyone treats them well and makes sure they are well-fed.
Does Hong Kong also pretend the homeless don’t actually exist – or is this peculiar to the tantalizingly bizarre mindset of the Japanese?
People in Hong Kong are fully aware of the panhandlers… because they stand out. Many of them are disabled or they are minorities (the man in the photo was Indian), or they have some prop like a kid. Sometimes they play musical instruments. I’m not sure if they’re actually homeless.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many panhandlers (especially the disabled ones) actually have a home, either in public housing or in some tenement. From wht I can tell there are only about 1,500-2,000 “street sleepers” in Hong Kong, which is less than Montreal, a city half the size. I believe HK has one of the lower homelessness rates in Asia, perhaps because it has such comprehensive public housing.
For many panhandlers, begging might be a way to supplement their paltry government support, especially if they are not physically or mentally able to work. (In this case the word “begging” really is appropriate, since many HK panhandlers are beggars in the most stereotypical sense of the word.)
As for whether or not people acknowledge the panhandlers, in my experience they do just as much as here in Montreal. There’s this one fat shirtless guy who is always on Jordan Road. People call him the Buddha.
July 29th, 2007 at
Does anyone know the amount of homeless people there are in Hong Kong this year? (2007)