Hong Kong – home to some 7 million people - is acknowledged as one of the world’s richest cities, with exorbitant luxury property and more Louis Vuitton shops than Paris. But tens of thousands of people in one of the most densely-populated urban districts in the world live in 6ft by 2ft wire cages – sometimes up to thirty in a small room. The cage dwellers are made up of the so-called “working poor,” who cannot afford Hong Kong’s sky-high rents, the elderly who can no longer work and the mentally ill who slip through the welfare cracks. Hong Kong Chinese people actually refer to these unfortunates as “Cage Dogs”.
Unscrupulous landlords charge them around US$200 a month for each cage, which are packed 20 to a room, and up to three levels high. The lower cages are more expensive because you can almost stand inside them, but the conditions are no less squalid. Occupants must share toilets and washing facilities, which are rudimentary. Many of the apartments have no kitchens, forcing their impoverished residents to spend there meagre incomes on takeaway food. The alternative is life on the street.
SoCo – Society for Community Organization – and an individual, Hong Kong social welfare charities social worker Sze Lai Shan, have spent the past 14 years fighting to re-house the cage dwellers. Despite Lai Shan and SoCo’s determined advocacy, the future of the “Cage Dogs” remains bleak, as cheaper labor floods into the former British territory from Mainland China. Hong Kong’s legislature
These pictures were captured by British photographer Brian Cassey.