By Chris Chan and Iris Lau
HONG KONG, April 12 – Hong Kong is a city commonly recognized as cosmopolitan, well-developed and modern. However behind the affluent backdrop of Causeway Bay and Central, many people are suffering from poverty.
Take Tin Shui Wai as an example. It is always being described as the “City of Sadness”. Many people in Tin Shui Wai are new immigrants from Mainland China. They cannot adapt to the lifestyle of Hong Kong. With low educational background, most of them have a low income. Moreover, Tin Shui Wai is categorized as a district with serious social problems; including the lack of facilities and family violence.
With $10 million funding and land support from the government, together with management of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, Tin Sau Bazaar started operating since this February, aimed at improving living standards of grass root citizens and providing them a chance to earn money as hawkers.
Tin Sau Bazaar can achieve it by providing a wider variety of business. Tin Shui Wai especially the north part is lacking of diversity of businesses and choices of goods. Moreover the product prices are very high.
At the stage of application, thus within November of 2012, over 3800 Tin Shui Wai citizens are competing for 200 booths. Chu Kwun-hung is one of the hawkers who successfully got a booth. He is a resident of Tin Shui Wai. He started working as a hawker after retiring from the Hong Kong Correctional Service department. He originally had a store in Twilight Bazaar. Recently he rented a booth with monthly rent about a thousand dollars in Tin Sau Bazaar, hoping for a better business environment.
However, compared with the profit earned from Twilight Bazaar, the result is not desirable in Tin Sau Bazaar. He said that he could earn more than a thousand dollars in Twilight Bazaar within one hour while he only earned nearly a thousand in Tin Sau Bazaar for a whole day. He said as Tin Sau Bazaar just operated for two months, the population flow is very low, with around 40 per day only. The promotion of Tin Sau Bazaar is very little, together with the insufficiency in instruction to the way to Tin Sau Bazaar, it cannot reach consumers widely. He said that the amount earned, which is under one thousand per day in Tin Sau Bazaar is insufficient for family expense especially for those breadwinners of the whole family.
“Fortunately, I maintained good relationship with the customers in Twilight Bazaar so that they are willing to come to Tin Sau Bazaar for purchasing my goods,” Chu said with a bitter smile on his face.
Chu said that this bazaar is actually “face engineering”. He explained, the period of planning is very short. However the government wanted to prove that they are concerning the poverty problem. Therefore without considering the weaknesses and insufficiencies in supporting services, Tin Sau Bazaar was still put into operation. For instance, the ground is not smooth and he is worried that it would get worse during rainy days. Another hawker Alfred Cheng, who is a young magician, added that the temperature would be terribly high when summer comes and the population flow would be even lower.
Chu added that Tung Wah Group of Hospitals just rent this booth to him for at most one year. But he could not think of any occupation else that he is able to do at this age. He hoped that the facilities of Tin Sau Bazaar could be improved so that more people would like to go there.
For Cheng, until now, his business is not profitable yet. He needed to teach magic classes and attend magic shows in order to cover the rent for the booth.
However, he is optimistic towards Tin Sau Bazaar because he was the only one selling magic tools there.
“The potential market is huge as many children and youngsters would like to come to my stall,” he said.