“I have no place to stay,” refugee says

By Melissa Tsang


Clothing donations at Refugee Union, Sai Ying Pun, Sheuang Wan, Hong Kong.

HONG KONG—It is a 160-square-foot some room without beds while prevailing living utensils, such as toothbrushes and toothpastes placing quietly in the bathroom. Dozens of DVDs piled in disarray aside a garbage heap in the corner of the sitting room, among which the most eye-catching one is “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Malee, a 50-year-old refugee from Sri Lanka, was bending over the ground like chickens looking for bits of corn, picking suitable clothes among hillock clothing donations. Unlike general impression of Africans, with shining tooth foiling their dark skin, Malee’s tooth looks prone to dark yellow.

“I have no place to stay,” she blurted the words expressionlessly.

Wearing a plaid T-shirt and a milky white obviously unfitting trousers, Malee was pleased to find another pants in the piling clothing. She immediately switched it in bathroom, then, walked out briskly. It was apparent that the trousers fit her much more than the previous one.

Here is Refugee Union Hong Kong, a successfully registered society, locating at Sai Ying Pun, Sheung Wan. Though living in Hong Kong more than 14 years, this was the first time Malee came. “My friend told me there’s food and clothes here,” she said.

Searching for food and shelter is a part of her daily life. An amount of 1,500 Hong Kong dollars accommodation subsidies per month did not help to tackle her situation.

In fact, the accommodation problem of Hong Kong refugees has once become a widely reported issue.

On January 29, 2015, a 33-year-old male refugee from Sri Lanka was burned to death while staying in his renting “iron sheet” house due to inadequate safety precautions.

Refugees have been finding homes in isolated areas, mainly distributing in Yuen Long, Yau Tsim Mong and Sham Shui Po, according to the website of Vision First, a NGO serves refugees.

“The cheap rent attracts refugees to old areas because they are provided insufficient government assistance to rent legal housing,” said Venisa, a volunteer in Vision First.

Venisa is also a refugee, as a helper in Vision First, she has the opportunity to spend time at the office. But refugees are not allowed to work in Hong Kong, thus Venisa is not paid, and as well, she faces the fiscal problem as other refugees do.

Venisa has a three-year-old daughter. The tuition for the little girl has become her biggest concern at present. The predicament remains the same among all the refugees who has a child in Hong Kong. “We don’t have money, then no school,” Venisa said.

She also pointed out that the work-banning policy would compel refugees to work at small restaurants.

Some employers tend to hire people who require lower salaries, and refugees are willing to do that, she said.

According to statistics from Immigration Department, currently there are about 13,000 registered refugees in Hong Kong. The government outsources relevant subsidies work to International Social Service, the organization accountable for dispatching living supplies for refugees.

“They give us coupon, but usually the food is hard to eat,” Venisa said.

After changing trousers, Malee began to eat with her hands. “I like Hong Kong, because in my country this will be robbed or stolen, but I don’t have to worry about it here,” Malee said, meanwhile she pointed to the accessories putting on her neck and wrists.

Malee’s daughter, 22, is still in Sri Lanka. If she misses me, she would give me a call, Malee said. Malee wishes to go to Canada or Australia one day. “Everything is on the way,” she said.

Finishing eating, Malee planned to go to Chong Qing mansion, a place famous for cheap food and accommodation in Hong Kong. Malee said she could find “somewhere” to live there.

The most aspiring activity for Malee every week is to go to churches. “Thank God, it gives all to me,” she said.

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The Painter Draws on Human Skin

By Melissa Tsang

Ho Yu-pang does tattoo at “White Night Tattoo.”

Ho Yu-pang does tattoo at “White Night Tattoo.”

HONG KONG—Like other small shops in Hong Kong, it is effortless to see panoramic view of Ho Yu-pang’s tattoo shop at a glance.

On the wall are the portrait of a skull, a jemmy Ho killed, and a piece of calligraphy with “quietude promotes learning, frugality cultivates virtue.”

An estimated 1.2-meter long green lizard faces down in a glass box near the door, which is the pet Ho owns for five years.

Hearing the faint sound of the lizard’s crawling, Ho recalled that he was bad at calculating abstruse mathematics, but was good at sketching out whatever appeared in his mind. “Painting made me feel free,” Ho said.

However, Ho’s first profession was not related to drawing. He worked as a chef for 10 years before he started the shop named “White Night Tattoo.”

For Ho, chef was not a promising occupation. Tattoo was more appealing, “because it combined painting and making money,” Ho made up his mind to open a tattoo shop at the age of 29.

Ho brought machines and tools for doing tattoo. Subsequently, he purchased simulation skin, tied them on his arm, practicing tattooing at home.

When practiced adequately, Ho began to exercise on his own body. The first tattoo he had on arm was the lizard he kept in the shop. By doing so, he made sure the ink he used would not cause any allergies.

Tattoo is an artisanship. People devote to it are more than painters, “we own the most precious drawing paper in the world—the skin,” Ho said earnestly, “and tattoo is a lifetime career for me.”

Struggling to make a living, Ho worked as a building maintenance handyman. Earning 500 Hong Kong dollars a day, but he enjoyed the time off work, allowing him concentrate on his tattoo practice. “You don’t need to promote me, I won’t work for long,” Ho said to his boss.

Ho opened “White Night Tattoo” in 2012, locating on the 16th floor of Treasure Mansion, Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mong Kok.

Several signs of tattoo shops displayed among other signs in the window of the mansion’s hall, a brush font of “White Night Tattoo” with an interspersed lotus icon makes Ho’s sign prominent.

Unexpectedly, the amount of such tattoo shops exceeds 50 in Mong Kok. Ho said some guests came in just because they liked the name, “they had a great eye,” he complimented with a smile.

“White night represents a contradiction,” Ho said, “like tattoo, people feel painful and pay for it, yet still love it.” He thought life is a confrontation with struggles. Ho’s father never appreciates his career, he defines success as to be rich, but Ho stated, “you wear Rolex, I like my Casio.”

Though income remains uncertain, sometimes Ho even needs to be self-financing, he feels relieved by supporting life on his own hands.

Booking online is required. This one day, two young men walked in, the one in suit wanted to have tattoo of a name on his arm, the other one in T-shirt accompanied him. The suit man sat down beside the equipment after selecting a font on the Internet.

Ho gathered his long hair in horsetail to the brain empress. Afterwards, he wore a light blue mask and white rubber gloves. Further, Ho took out paper and brushes from the sided case, starting painting on the man.

After a while, the sketch was done. The suit man looked at it, nodded. Ho was disinfecting the needle while turning to the man, “it begins, preparing well.”

Zi-zi-zi, dense and regular voice appeared. Blood was leaking out of the man’s yellow skin while dark blue line was carving on. Ho wiped the wound gingerly with sterilized tissue after every stitch. “I contact the guest’s blood, thus disinfection must be done well,” Ho said he built the habit when he was a chef.

The suit man lied on the soft chair with eyes closed and eyelids moved faster than usual, sometimes it made him blink to stop the stinging.

Half an hour flied, Ho successfully completed the task. The suit man looked relaxed, “it didn’t hurt that much,” he said to his friend. Ho handed him a small packet of anti-inflammatory drugs, and an A4-size page of important notes after tattooing.

Talking and laughing, the two men went out.

“Every guest has a story, as far as I saw the icons, I remembered the exact situation of doing it,” Ho runs a homepage on Facebook, displaying many of his daily works.

Once a girl came with a very old photograph of a lovely dog. Ho did the tattoo on her back, then the girl told him the dog died years ago.

The latest work displayed on Ho’s Facebook is “Egypt full back,” painting images of The Sphinx and The Pyramid. Up to now, Ho’s page has collected 6865 likes.

At times, Ho meets underworld people. “They think in a simple way,” Ho described. They asked him painting the same icons as certain figures like Chan Ho-Yin, who was a classic character in a famous Hong Kong movie named Gangster. “It’s hard to talk with them, tattoo should be unique,” Ho said, “something worth remembering.”

Except the lizard, Ho had tattoos of “fighting” on arm, lucky cat on neck, and Guanyin(A Buddhist Goddess’ Chinese name) riding a dragon on back. “Some say Guanyin is a taboo, but it is just a picture I like,” Ho shrugged and said.

At present, Hong Kong government doesn’t issue any laws to standardize tattoo industry. Ho said many shops run business without licenses. “The government ignore them unless something serious happened,” Ho said helplessly.

It is illegal to tattoo a person under 18, according to Youth Tattoo Regulation issued by Hong Kong Legislative Council. If youngsters look like students come, Ho will sign an agreement with them, warranting they are above 18, “Hong Kong do has regulation on privacy, I can’t ask for their ID cards,” Ho explained.

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I am a gay, not a monster

By Melissa Tsang

Hong Kong-Crowds of people paraded with bright rainbow flags in their hands and brilliant smiles on their faces, decorating downtown Hong Kong a sea of colorful banners. On the 3.1-kilometer-long parade path from Victoria Park to Tamar Park, some worn eye-catching wigs, some put on big sunglasses, some attired in cross-dressing ancient costumes with heavy makeup.

It was a drizzly day in November, 8,900 people participated the 6th Hong Kong Pride Parade, reaching the historical high, the organizer released. Among the energetic revelers, two middle-aged men without exaggerated facial expressions looked somewhat different. They appeared natural and calm, whispering at an obscure corner.

They were Brian and Eric, gay friends but not a couple. Brian was 53 years old, who engaged in transport services. “It was seven years old, the first time when I was vaguely aware of my intimacy to men,” Brian said with faintly grin. It was a much more conservative society in 1960s. Brian could do nothing except self-doubt and inner struggles when he found the fact that his sexual orientation was different from other boys. “I thought I was a monster,” he added.

Hong Kong Legislative Council decriminalized homosexuality on July 11, 1990, with 31 votes in favor, 13 votes against, according to the official archives. “That was the turning point of my life, because I began to be relieved about my homosexual identity,” Brian recalled with eyes glistening. He was 30 years old that year.

Gays and lesbians tended to open their identity prudently, for there was a risk to break good friendship. “The majority of my friends did not know my sexual orientation,” Brian said, “some would not speak it out, but the behavior of alienation was obvious.” Brian used to reveal his secret to a colleague, however, this put their relationship to an end. Brian was not wealthy, “if economic conditions permitted, I might immigrate to an open country at a young age,” but life was never about a second chance.

The controversy about gay never ends. Opponents treat AIDS as the revenge for gay people. Brian denied, “heterosexual also get HIV virus, ” he believed that was just because more gay people had the opportunity to know they are infected. Objectors from Christians think LGBTs are sinners, “it was kind of morally hijacked,” Brian considered they should pay more attention to those who really brought damages to the society. Besides, gay people get increased cynicism for a marriage of convenience, which means a gay getting married with a lesbian. It seems to be a compromise between real-me and pressure from society. “I can understand them, but I will never do that,” Brian explained.

For the future of Hong Kong’s gay rights, Brian is optimistic. He believes the situation will be better and better in an enlightened society, like the social tolerance of homosexuality now is far beyond the past when he was young. Further, Brian expects more, a society of equality and fairness.

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Is Hong Kong’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme over loose?

By Melissa Tsang

Hong Kong-The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme provides a safety net for those who cannot support themselves financially due to unemployment, elderly, disability or any other possible reasons. It is designed by Hong Kong government to bring those people’s income up to a prescribed level to meet their basic needs. According to regulations, the applicants must pass financial tests, including income and asset tests.

Open documents of Social Welfare Department reveals able-bodied single adult aged under 60 could get $2,155 per month through CSSA, and able-bodied elderly person aged 60 or above could draw $3,055 monthly. While the Old Age Living Allowance for 65 or above is $2,285 per month, $1,180 monthly for 70 or above.

In 1998, a review report was published due to the surge numbers and spending of the CSSA scheme. At that time, some people could get more money through the CSSA than earn wages in the working market. Besides, more and more people doubted the abusing of the CSSA. The report introduced the Support for Self-reliance Scheme, requiring able-bodied applicants aged 15 to 59 must also join the SFS when they applied for the CSSA.

Even so, cases of fraud CSSA were reported frequently in newspapers. Wen Wei Po once published a story of former Hong Kong judge Lee Pak-Kim jailed for 11 months on account of fraud CSSA. In 2013, the Social Welfare Department revised the application conditions of CSSA, opening the door to those who have resided in Hong Kong for one year. That means, the applicants do not have to be the permanent residents of Hong Kong as far as they have held the Hong Kong resident status for at least one year, they are able to apply for the CSSA.

“I’m supportive to this, because the government can not watch these people starve to death, the same as you can not stop a doctor healing the wounded and rescuing the dying,” a retired shipping worker Lee said.

Wong Wai-Dik, a 25-year middle school teacher said, “it is acceptable that these subsidizes given to whose really needed, but new immigrants should try harder to look for jobs. It is sad to see some new immigrants seek for CSSA just due to laziness.”

Data from the Social Welfare Department shows the number of CSSA cases did not receive substantial rise since the application conditions changed to at least one-year resident. Further, the number fell 0.2% by month in August 2014, and the data owned a 0.4% decrease in September 2014 on a monthly basis.

“I’m not for it, because I see some permanent residents fail to apply for the CSSA. There are too many people in Hong Kong. Also, when I say I’m not for it, it does not mean I will stand up to against it,” said Lin, a 67-year retired driver.

Attribution: http://www.swd.gov.hk/en/index


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People talk with the God

By Melissa Tsang

Hong Kong-As I near the door of activity room located on the 8 floor of an old residential building on Jordan Road, I hear melodious singing. With stepping in, a group of youngsters dressed in white shirts came into sight.

A brown piano lying in the corner of the room, a woman wearing dark frames is playing it. From my scope, I can only see her clever eyes darting from notes and keyboard. Moving the sight to the right, 7 people are singing with slow and even movement of their chests. Without exception, the flutter of their eyelids, slightly raise looking beyond, as if staring at a certain enigmatic figure.

There are about 20 some people sitting there to listen and pray, each of them holding a thick book “Hymns of Life.” After the singing, a middle-aged man moves to the podium, leading people read the apostles, piety and quiet. The majority of the readers low their heads, clasp hands with eyes closed, chanting something.

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“Umbrella Revolution” sweeps Hong Kong as increasing number of people protesting for democracy

By Melissa Tsang

Protesters attended assembly outside Admiralty Government Office, 9:10 p.m. Oct.1

Protesters attended assembly outside Admiralty Government Office, 9:10 p.m., Oct.1

Hong Kong-Tens of thousands people demonstrated on National Day at Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok, demanding genuine universal suffrage and calling for Leung Chun-ying to step down.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students launched one-week strike since September 22. Student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung guided dozens of students rushing into civil square at 10:30 p.m. on September 26. Then police moved to disperse protesters by using pepper spray, leading the beginning of “Civil Disobedience,” also known as “umbrella revolution”.

Students held umbrellas while two helicopters carrying Hong Kong and Chinese flags flying over Golden Bauhinia Square.

Students held umbrellas while two helicopters carrying Hong Kong and Chinese flags flying over Golden Bauhinia Square.

Inspired by the students, the leaders of Occupy Central started the movement in advance at 1:40 a.m. on September 28. Police fired tear gas 87 times in total to disperse demonstrators, booming the movement a peak on National Day as mountainous people occupy Admiralty, Central, Causeway Bay and Mongkok.

Hong Kong government denounced that Occupy Central is illegal, emphasizing Beijing will not rescind 2017 Hong Kong election frame proposed by NPC Standing Committee. While the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said on September 29 that the fireworks display will be cancelled this year due to the stalled traffic.

Students present flowers to police.

Students present flowers to police.

“We are protesting for genuine universal suffrage, we want One Country Two System, not one country one system,” said Cola Ho, a 16-year-old middle school student who is one of the 6 students participating the demonstrations in her school.

Kasey Chan, a 22-year-old clerk went to the assembly to support students with her friends, “Students are innocent, as a Hong Konger, I am obligated to support them.” When asked about whether she would also attend Occupy Central, she said “ I will not take part in that, not because I am not longing for freedom and democracy, but I do not think they organize an efficient movement. They even have inner divergences.”

Civil speech in Central, 10:05 p.m., Oct.1

Civil speech in Central, 10:05 p.m., Oct.1

Apart from assembly, a series of civil speeches are also held on scene, which will last till October 3. “I support the protest, and it is unbelievable the police used tear gas against the students. This makes the movement an international concern,” said a British photographer who attended the assembly in Mongkok.

As no substantive progress was made, yesterday the Hong Kong Federation of Students urged Leung Chun-ying to resign within two days otherwise they would step up the movement and occupy government agencies.

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About Me

I am Zeng Ping from Sichuan Province, China. Now I am studying International Journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University. This blog is expected to be like the backyard garden of my observations in Hong Kong. As a novice gardener, I try to cultivate this patch with diligence in the hope of spreading thought-provoking stories.

I once worked for WE Engauge in Beijing as social media editor. It was my job responsibility to explore something informative  through internet and to write something appealing to the followers within 140 words  on Weibo, the Chinese vision of Twitter.

I did my internship at Time Education Magazine, during which I interviewed groups of  educators, including teachers from kindergarten, middle school, private training organization etc. This experience equipped me with general skills of interviewing people and  made me falling in love with telling stories.

Name: Zeng Ping/Melissa Tsang

Email: melissazengping@gmail.com

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