Hong Kong: Aged and Abandoned

Hong Kong: Aged and Abandoned

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This shocking Al Jazeera documentary concerns Hong Kong’s 500,000 elderly residents who live in abject poverty in a city with 65 billionaires.

At present, Hong Kong seniors can’t qualify to receive a pension unless their adult children sign a document affirming their inability to look after them. Many refuse to sign out of shame for their failure to provide for their parents.

Hong Kong elders who qualify for pensions find $100 a month totally inadequate to meet their basic needs. Thus they supplement their income by scavenging rubbish bins for cardboard and items they can hawk at street markets.

Many live in so-called “coffin homes” – in warehouses of large beds stacked on top of one another.

11 thoughts on “Hong Kong: Aged and Abandoned

  1. “So why are so many elderly citizens left to struggle in poverty? Is it greed, a lack of money, or indifference?”

    Oh, I dunno. My guess is none of the above. Dominic Lee, however, did underscore the crux of the issue. People must live in destitution so that the obscenely rich can have even more than they already have. To paraphrase this genius, poverty is necessary because “resources that are used to help one person are resources that could be used to help other people.” Well, then, I guess that settles that. Clearly, suasion isn’t going to sway his illogic. Maybe a good old fashion revolution?

    (I know I won’t live long enough to see it, and it might never come. Still, it would be sweet to see.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Much in your comment really resonates with me, Norman, especially the comment about whether I will live long enough to see the Revolution and how sweet it would be. The outstanding question in my mind is if the elderly in China are treated quite this badly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “The outstanding question in my mind is if the elderly in China are treated quite this badly.”

        I suspect it is just as bad. China, according to two Chinese academics, took a hardcore capitalist turn as early as 1979, and not that it had ever traveled all that far down the path to socialism.

        It is a good question and a topic deserving of investigation. If I find anything substantive, I’ll copy and paste to my blog.

        But if Tony Cliff’s thumbnail sketch of the social composition of the Chinese revolution is halfway accurate, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the reality is fairly dismal:

        Quote begins:

        2 Mao’s rise to power

        The industrial working class played no role whatsoever in the victory of Mao. Even the social composition of the Chinese Communist Party was completely non-working class. Mao’s rise in the party coincided with its transformation from a working class party. Towards the end of 1926 at least 66 per cent of the membership were workers, another 22 per cent intellectuals and only 5 per cent peasants. (10) By November 1928, the percentage of workers had fallen by more than four-fifths, and an official report admitted that the party ‘did not have a single healthy party nucleus among the industrial workers’. (11) The party admitted that workers comprised only 10 per cent of the membership in 1928, three per cent in 1929, 2.5 per cent in March 1930, 1.6 per cent in September of the same year., and virtually nothing at the end of it.(12) From then and until Mao’s final victory the party had no industrial workers to speak of.

        For a number of years the party was confined to insurgent peasant movements deep in the provinces of central China, where it established a Chinese Soviet Republic; later, after a military defeat in the central provinces (1934), it moved to northern Shensi, in the north-west. In both these areas there was no industrial working class to speak of. A Comintern organ was not exaggerating when it wrote that ‘the Border Region is socially and economically one of the most backward regions of China.'(13) Chu Teh repeated: ‘The regions under the direction of the Communists are the most backward economically in the whole country…’ (14) Not one real town came under the control of the Communists until a couple of years before the establishment of the Chinese People’s Republic. So unimportant were workers in Communist Party strategy during the period of Mao’s rise to power that the party did not find it necessary to convene a National Congress of Trade Unions for 19 years after the one held in 1929. Nor did it bother to seek Workers’ support, as witnessed in its declaration that it did not intend to maintain any party organisation in the Kuomintang-controlled areas during the crucial years l937-45. (15) When, in December 1937, the Kuomintang government decreed the death penalty for workers who went on strike or even agitated for a strike while the war was in progress, a Communist Party spokesman told an interviewer that the party was ‘fully satisfied’ with that government’s conduct of the war.(16) Even after the outbreak of civil war between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang, hardly any Communist Party organisations existed in the Kuomintang areas, which included all the industrial centres in the country.

        Mao’s conquest of the towns revealed more than anything else the Communist Party’s complete divorce from the industrial working class. Communist leaders did their best to prevent any workers’ uprisings in the towns on the eve of their being taken. Before the fall of Tientsin and Peking, for example, General Lin Piao, commander of the front, issued a proclamation calling on people:

        to maintain order and continue in their present occupations. Kuomintang officials or police personnel of provincial, city, country or other level of government institution; district, town, village, or pao chia personnel…are enjoined to remain at their posts…(17)

        At the time of the crossing of the Yangtze River, before the great cities of Central and South China (Shanghai, Hankow, Canton) fell to them, Mao and Chu Teh again issued a special proclamation stating among other things:

        It is hoped that workers and employees in all trades will continue to work and that business will operate as usual… officials of the Kuomintang Central, Provincial, Municipal or County Governments of various levels, or delegates of the ‘National Assembly’, members of the Legislative and Control Yuans or People’s Political Council members, police personnel and heads of Pao Chia organisations… are to stay at their posts, obey the orders of the People’s Liberation Army and People’s Government.(18)

        The working class obliged and remained inert. A report from Nanking on 22 April 1949, two days before the People’s Liberation Army occupied it, described the situation in this way:

        Nanking’s populace is showing no signs of excitement. Curious crowds were seen this morning to gather at the river wall to watch the gun duel on the opposite side of the river. Business is going on as usual. Some shops are closed, but it is due to lack of business…’ Movie houses are still showing to packed houses.(19)

        A month later a New York Times correspondent wrote from Shanghai:

        The Red troops began putting up posters in Chinese instructing the populace to be calm and assuring them they had nothing to fear.(20)

        In Canton:

        After their entry the Communists made contact with the police station and instructed the officers and men to remain at their posts to keep order.(21)

        Quote ends.

        ‘Really existing socialism’ seems to have been as “socialist’ as the Western democracies have been and are “democratic.”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely shockingly, appallingly, disgraceful! I had no idea that the elderly of that culture were treated so badly. I thought the elderly were revered and respected. Has the whole world gone mad? I watched the entire video and was just shocked at the living conditions of these people who had worked all their lives but were reduced to scavenging for boxes in which to supplement their meager pension.

    And some were too ashamed to even accept help and their child, in many cases, would not even sign the form that would have at least given them a bit of assistance from the government because they too, were ashamed to admit that they could not take care of their elderly relative.

    Also, I wanted to just slap that smug politician because he was just like every politician; completely lacking in empathy and humanity. How those young people cannot see themselves in their elderly relatives, I don’t know because their turn is coming. Karma is a bitch!

    Liked by 1 person



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