Hong Kong is one of the richest and most densely populated cities in the world. It also possesses one of the fastest growing global trends—abject poverty and a deep disparity in wealth.
The city that reportedly has more Louis Vuitton shops than Paris houses some of its poor in stacked cages. Yes, you read right—human beings live caged like captive animals.
In fact, the people who live in these “homes” are called “caged dogs.” Thousands live in 6-feet-by-2-feet rabbit hutches, stacked on top of each other and crammed into rooms.
The stack rises in rows of three, sometimes 20 to one filthy, rodent, bug-infested room. There are no cooking facilities, so residents are forced to eat takeout. They all share a bathroom and pay about $200 a month to occupy the cage. Everything they own fits in that tiny space.
Gentrification, also on the rise here in the US, is responsible for most of the 100,000 men, women and children living as captive animals in Hong Kong.
When developers push the poor out to convert buildings into expensive high-rise apartments and condos, there is often nowhere affordable for the displaced to go.
Some have lived in this kind of stunning confinement for decades. Like 79-year-old Tai Lun Po, who has lived in his cage for an extraordinary 30 years; or 8-year-old Lee Ka Ying, who lives in one of the 6 feet square “cubicle cage homes” with her mother.
Or 60-year-old Tang Man Wai, a retired restaurant worker, who says he is forced to spend what little money he has on takeout food because there isn’t anywhere to cook. And Kong Sui Kao, 64, whose cage is one of 20 packed in a room he shares with “his neighbors.”
Then there is Yan Chi Leung, who is mentally ill and lives in his wire cage at the bottom of a stack of three. The lower cages are reportedly more expensive, for they have standing room, whereas the higher ones do not.
Brian Cassey, a British photographer, captured the hopelessness on the faces of the people living in those cages, highlighting the inhumanity we humans are capable of allowing, ignoring and worse –unscrupulously extorting a profit from.
How can a city that boosts a boom in luxury property have some of its people live in this kind of stunning squalor? With the very rich juxtaposed in expensive housing close by?
But then again, as horrific as this kind of existence is, it is not unique to just Hong Kong. From the shanty towns of Africa, the slums of India and other parts of Asia, the ghettos of Brazil and other parts of Latin and South America to the Caribbean and here in America--poverty seems to have taken up a permanent home for some.
While the world’s wealthy net worth appears to be growing at a dizzying pace, with the reported 100 richest raking in $1.9 trillion in 2012, poverty is deepening at an alarming rate as well.
Here in the US, there is also crushing poverty displayed alongside opulence and mounting wealth. In fact, according to reports, the wealthiest one-percent earners in the US have raked in their biggest net worth since 1928, the year before the historic stock market crash. They have earned more than 19 percent of the country’s household income in 2012.
The staggering statistics do not end there. The top 10 percent reportedly pulled in a record 48.2 percent of total earnings. Read more on this here.
One of the places in the US where this deep divide can be seen in stark relief is New York City. This tale of two cities with the haves and the have-nots were highlighted in a 3-D graphic by artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm.
As tale of two cities spread across the globe, what do you think is the role of governments in bridging this widening gap? What is the role of the individual citizen and the collective?
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