News / Asia

    Hong Kong Demo Shines Spotlight on Refugee Suffering

    Ivan Broadhead
    In downtown Hong Kong, refugees continue a six-week protest outside the social welfare department of the semi-autonomous Chinese city.  Denied the right to work, living on food handouts and apparently housed in accommodations unfit for humans, the protest is focusing attention on the harsh conditions faced by refugees and asylum seekers in one of the world’s wealthiest cities.

    About 6,000 asylum seekers live in Hong Kong, perhaps hoping one day to share in the prosperity of a city in which the World Bank calculates per capita GDP exceeds that of the United States.

    Barred from seeking employment even if granted refugee status, Refugee Union leader Saeid Mohammadi says asylum seekers in Hong Kong are marginalized and destitute.

    In 21 years, he says, the government has approved asylum for only 11 out of 13,000 victims of torture.  He says he has been in a stateless limbo since fleeing Afghanistan seven years ago.

    “Hong Kong signed the [U.N.] torture convention.  But their policy is to keep refugees in extreme poverty, destroy them mentally so they will commit some crime.  Then the police will arrest them and reject their case because they broke the law - this is what [they] want," said Mohammadi.

    Early morning commuters rush to offices in downtown skyscrapers as a pregnant Nepali refugee emerges from a tent pitched on the sidewalk.

    Lama Inu, 30, and dozens of her peers occupy a protest camp outside Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department.

    Their aim is to highlight the plight of refugees forced to choose between living in poverty in Hong Kong or returning to countries where their lives may be in danger.

    In a city often cited as the most expensive in the world, most refugees survive on a rental allowance of $200 a month, and three monthly food parcels from the Social Welfare Department.

    Food and rent are provided under a $26 million contract won by Swiss-headquartered NGO, International Social Services.
     
    The food is cheap and often rancid, the refugees allege.  And last month, a judge issued an injunction ordering International Social Services to fulfill its obligations when its staff failed to pay Inu’s rent.

    “My landlord kicked me out.  I begged them: we had no home, clothes, nothing.  For four days I did not change my dress or take a shower.  The doctor admitted me to hospital because I might have a problem with my baby.  We are suffering.  But I will fight," said Inu.

    While International Social Services did not comment, a Social Welfare Department statement said its contractor has been providing [refugees] with in-kind services on its behalf since 2006.

    It said this was “to prevent [refugees] becoming destitute … while not creating a magnet effect” that draws more refugees to Hong Kong.  

    The Social Welfare Department added that before providing rent, “ISS would also conduct spot checks and home visits to premises to assess the hygiene, home environment and safety condition [sic].”  

    But traveling into the countryside with advocacy group Vision First, VOA was introduced to South Asian refugees housed in a run down pigsty.

    Asylum seeker Shahzad Khan, from Pakistan, points to his mattress lying beside a feeding trough.  Electrical wires dangle under a holed roof and an open sewer runs nearby.   

    “We do not need anything from them, money or food.  We just want work.  When I came here I went to work, but spent 15 months in prison [as a result].  You can see, this place is for animals.  There is no future here," said Khan.

    Angered by our presence, we are set upon by the landlords of the pigsty Khan shares with 15 other refugees.

    While we are forced to leave, like thousands of other asylum seekers, Khan does not know how long he will be trapped in one of the wealthiest cities on Earth.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora