Coffin Homes in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Estimates determine that its population could grow to 7,249,907 people in 2020. While Hong Kong’s recent protests against the Chinese government receives extensive coverage, the high housing prices of Hong Kong precedes the current news. According to a 2019 report by CBRE, Hong Kong had the highest housing prices in the world, surpassing the housing prices of other cities such as Singapore, Shanghai, London, Los Angeles and New York. The report also showed that the average housing prices in Hong Kong were more than $1.2 million. Unsurprisingly, many people in Hong Kong find it hard to afford housing. This gave rise to coffin homes in Hong Kong which are small, partitioned apartment homes. Have the conditions improved in Hong Kong’s coffin homes? What kind of projects is the Hong Kong government participating in to improve the housing conditions in its city?

Inside a Hong Kong Coffin Home

According to some estimates, there are 200,000 people, including 40,000 children, living in these coffin homes in Hong Kong. Most of these coffin homes are smaller than 180 square feet. To put this size into perspective, this is only slightly bigger than an average parking spot in New York City. The inhabitants of these coffin homes range from retirees with little to no pension, the working poor, drug addicts and people with mental illnesses. These small spaces and unsanitary conditions sometimes lead to bed bug infestation. Yeung, a coffin home resident who the South China Morning Post interviewed, said that he often spent the night at McDonald’s or at internet cafes in order to avoid bed bugs.

A Possible Solution?

The Hong Kong government is making efforts to improve the current state of housing in Hong Kong. The government’s main focus seems to be in providing more housing units for the general public. For example, the Hong Kong government proposed an ambitious project to reclaim 1,000 hectares of land near Lantau, which will create an artificial island near Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government plans to create 40,000 homes in this reclaimed land. The project should begin in 2025 with the aim of having residents move in by 2032, and has an estimated cost of $80 billion. However, there are many critics who worry about the long-term impact of this ambitious project.

What the Critics are Saying

Critics have claimed that building this artificial island is the equivalent to “pouring money into the sea.” Critics have furthermore pointed out that the project could lead to the destabilization of the city government’s fiscal reserves. Environmentalists in Hong Kong are also afraid that the project will distort the hydrology near Lantau Island. These environmentalists are encouraging the Hong Kong government to adopt a “brownfield first” policy. This policy entails developing the 1,000 hectares of land in the New Territories area that is located at the northern part of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government is also conversing with Hong Kong Disneyland to release a tract of land, that is supposed to be part of Disneyland’s future expansion, to the government so that it can utilize it as a residential district.

The housing crisis in Hong Kong is a complicated issue. The squalid and cramped conditions that many people in Hong Kong live in reflect its current housing crisis. The high housing prices have given rise to coffin homes in Hong Kong. The current socio-political instability in Hong Kong, while having some of its roots in Hong Kong society’s innate inequality, certainly is not remedying the current housing crisis. The Hong Kong government seems to be very conscious of this crisis. Its efforts to provide housing for its populace, however, still face many challenges. Its ambitious project for creating an artificial island is especially notable. With all this effort, many hope that coffin homes in Hong Kong will become a story of the past.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Hong Kong's Housing CrisisWhen people think of Hong Kong, they may imagine the towering skyscrapers that span over the cityscapes, the shiny new Porsches that people drive and the kind of lavish lifestyle that the million of ultra-rich people living there lead. Hong Kong is indeed the wealthiest city in the world. About 93 billionaires live in Hong Kong, and one in seven residents are millionaires. Despite the city’s wealth, Hong Kong’s housing crisis is a big issue.

Hong Kong’s Housing Crisis

While it is proud to be home to the wealthiest people in the world, inequality in Hong Kong is reaching its highest level in 45 years. One in five people in Hong Kong lives under the city’s poverty line. The richest households can make 44 times what the poorest family can scrape together.

The experiences of people on the two sides of the wealth spectrum are starkly different. Many consider Hong Kong the world’s least affordable city, having the most expensive property internationally for nine consecutive years. While the richest population continues to enjoy the luxury and wealth from its investment in real estate, the people at the bottom struggle to find shelters.

The housing crisis in Hong Kong is one of the most pressing issues that the city is facing. The average price of property reaches almost $3,200 per square foot, and an average home costs around $1.28 million. A tiny “nano apartment” can cost Hong Kong residents up to $500,000. The monthly rent for almost half of the city’s apartments is $2,550, which is 122 percent of what an average individual makes in a month.

Poor Housing Conditions

For people who cannot afford such exorbitant rents, they resort to fast-food restaurants, footbridges and illegal shacks under highways for shelters. At least 200,000 other Hong Kong residents are living in tiny subdivided flats, sharing facilities with many different households in apartments designed for one family.

These subdivided flats are so small and low-quality that people call them the infamous “coffin cubicles” because of their resemblance to coffin boxes. These lower-quality units may comprise of wire mesh instead of wooden planks, giving them the appearance of cages. Even the starting rent for these windowless cages can cost around $180 a month.

These tiny living spaces, often no more than 20 square feet, sit stacked on top of one another in cramped buildings. They barely fit one person in each unit, and there is no space for one to fully stretch out inside the space. A significant number of these living spaces are in breach of safety regulations, and one can consider the squalid living conditions of these tiny coffin boxes violations of human rights. These living situations are likely to have negative impacts on the physical and psychological well-being of the tenants, especially the elderly who live in solitude.

The alternative for these low-income families is to apply for public housing units. However, the supply cannot keep up with the demand. Many attribute the housing crisis in Hong Kong to the government’s decision to halt public housing construction planning in response to the 1997 financial crisis. The public housing construction level has yet to return to the pre-crisis level. The government’s Housing Authority garnered about 105,000 applications for flats. This is 50 times the supply. Similarly, the nonprofit Housing Society received about 88,000 applications for its public housing, which is 141 times its supply. Hundreds of thousands of applicants have gone on the waitlist with the average wait time of 5.5 years.

The housing shortage and astronomical housing prices are also likely the consequence of restrictive land usage regulations. The government owns all the land in Hong Kong but has zoned only 7 percent of the city’s land for housing. Developers have to pay the land premium, which costs a hefty amount, for the limited number of lands that the government leases each year. Developers would, in turn, set the prices of this housing sky-high to obtain profits. Investment in Hong Kong’s property is attractive for foreigners and especially Mainland Chinese who want a place for their capital, which drives up the demand for housing immensely.

The Solution

In response to Hong Kong’s pressing housing crisis, the government has announced plans to provide more affordable homes in the next decade. It plans to add 280,000 public homes and 180,000 private homes by 2027.

The straight-forward solution that the government proposed is to increase land supply. There is a plan for land reclamation to build 4,200 acres of artificial islands to meet the housing demands. The first island would create space for 260,000 flats, of which 70 percent would be public housing.

However, land reclamation is expensive, potentially destructive to the environment and could take decades to reach completion. The housing crisis in Hong Kong is in need of more immediate solutions. Some are in favor of rent controls in Hong Kong to keep the property price affordable.

In October 2019, the government proposed to redevelop about 700 hectares of unused private land for public housing in Hong Kong’s northern New Territories region. Several Hong Kong conglomerates have shown support for providing more affordable housing to alleviate the housing problem in the city. The New World Development announced its decision to donate three million square feet of farmland for public housing. It also shows a willingness to donate more land to other nonprofit organizations and charity that provides social housing. The Sun Hung Kai Properties also declared its aim to cooperate with the government to construct affordable housing on rural land zoned for subsidized housing.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Line in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s reputation as one of the most financially significant regions on earth masks internal issues of poverty and inequality. The record-high poverty line in Hong Kong has hit the city hard, with one-fifth of its residents living in a state of poverty in 2018. The one-fifth mark is the highest record rate of poverty the city has experienced since the government began publishing statistics in 2009. The highest rise in poverty came in 2016 when statistics documented that 20 percent, or 1.35 million of the residents, were living in a state of poverty.

The Poverty Line in Hong Kong

Government officials in Hong Kong attribute their record-high poverty line to an overgrown population, containing many elderly residents. With 7.4 million individuals inhabiting the country, many people of the older generation call Hong Kong home.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-Chung stated there is not much room for the poverty rate to drop significantly to combat a rapidly aging population. Kin-Chun stated that “The structural problem of the aging population is irreversible. Tens of thousands of our residents fall into the elderly category every year. This has nullified the poverty alleviation effect.”

Hong Kong and Inequality

Even though government officials shift the blame toward the aging population, history shows that inequality amongst the people in Hong Kong set in motion the high poverty rates. Rapid growth in technology and markets in the city has negatively impacted those who work standard jobs at an older age. More advanced jobs are taking over the city, handing out higher salaries and making those who work the latter unable to pay for proper shelter, food, water and other necessities.

The government of Hong Kong has provided some assistance by lowering the cost of necessities for the older generation. An acknowledged solution would be to provide better education about new technology and markets. Further, it could be beneficial to reassign residents to positions when qualified could lead to better outcomes.

Rent and Income

Another reason why the city has hit record-high poverty is that the monthly rent per household and wages each earns has skewed in opposite directions. Monthly rent is 70 percent of the median for household income for half of the city. The average unskilled worker works a 12-hour day to afford only a 100 square foot home.

Monthly rent could rise 10 cents in 2019 making affordable housing scarce. The government has proposed higher tax cuts on middle- and lower-class residents, including the older generation. Additionally, it proposed increasing taxes on wealthy residents. In doing so, it hopes to combat inequality amongst living and working situations.

Wealth Distribution

Wealth distribution in Hong Kong is extremely uneven. The top 10 percent in Hong Kong earn 44 times more than the lower 10 percent in the city. Wealthy business owners, who influence politicians and leading governmental officials, impact the division in income. The divide hurts the ability of those living below the poverty line to get any form of governmental assistance.

Like many other regions of the world, inequality and undervaluing of women have also contributed to the record-high poverty rate. Historically, China has undervalued women, restricting them to a one-child preferred boy law, while illegal abortions took place. A 2017 report found 451,700 women fell below the poverty line, compared to 80,000 men. The government of Hong Kong is actively working on passing more laws in order to provide more protection and better education for women and girls.

Nonprofit Efforts

The poverty in Hong Kong has finally exposed governmental leaders and ignited a need for change in the city. Hong Kong is finally beginning to publicly acknowledge the issues and seek help in turning the city around. Nonprofit organizations have implemented solutions to assist in reducing poverty. The ADM Capital Foundation, which emerged in 2006, addresses environmental and social challenges across Asia to combat the new markets and technologies.

Additionally, the Chen Yet-Sen Foundation is a charitable institution in Hong Kong. It works on establishing innovative and cost-efficient means to provide better literacy programs for children and women. Finally, the Our Hong Kong Foundation, founded in 2014, conducts research on land, housing, technology and economic development. In doing so, it helps to provide relief for those living in poor or unsanitary housing.

Aaron Templin
Photo: Pexels


Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated and financially significant regions on Earth, but it also has a massive issue with income inequality. Roughly one-fifth of Hong Kong’s residents are living in poverty as of November 2018, with monthly income for those people falling below the poverty line equaling $700 a month. The average cost of living for a 900 square foot apartment plus utilities in a normal area for two equals $3,885 a month. In the text below, the top 10 facts about poverty in Hong Kong are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Hong Kong

  1. The population is aging. With 7.4 million residents, Hong Kong is home to many people of older generations. The combination of changing technologies and markets has impacted those who served in more blue-collar jobs in years past. This has a dramatic effect on how they are able to pay for housing, food and basic necessities when white collar jobs are taking over the city. The government has provided handouts that have helped many in poverty, but what truly needs to be done is proper job reeducation and reassignment.
  2. Cohabitating with elderly parents is becoming necessary. As many young adults seek to explore their career paths and the vast megalopolis of the Pearl River Delta, they realize they don’t have the means to expand. In order to keep parents from falling below the poverty line and to give their future children exceptional opportunities, many young couples are forced to stay with their parents. However, this is only a temporary solution to the long-term issue of how to deal with economic struggles. Thankfully, the local and national governments are considering how to reengage the elderly through the use of their accumulated knowledge.
  3. Monthly rent is 70 percent of the median household income for half of Hong Kong. With the average monthly income of those below the poverty line not reaching the 70 percent statistic to pay for livable housing, a dark housing market has appeared. Illegal housing has entered roughly one in four structures in Hong Kong. In order to combat the rise of illegal housing and unlivable structures, the government of China must provide affordable and government subsidized housing rather than solely catering to the wealthy.
  4. Wages have not risen to meet the rise in housing cost. The average unskilled worker has to work 12-hours per day to afford a 100 square foot coffin home. In order to meet the needs of its citizens, Hong Kong must increase welfare payments in the form of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). CSSA must become more than just a safety net for basic needs and should fully encompass the needs of those in poverty in Hong Kong through food assistance and other means.
  5. Women are disproportionately affected by poverty. China has historically undervalued women. The one-child policy preferred boys and illegal sex-selective abortions were utilized. Hong Kong’s 2017 census stated that roughly 451,700 women fell below the poverty line, where only 80,800 men did. In order to fully engage society and bring skilled workers into the workforce, education and protections must be put in place for women and young girls.
  6. The poor are unfairly stigmatized. Those in poverty in Hong Kong are seen as being lazy for the position they’ve fallen into. This attitude speaks to a larger ambivalent attitude towards meaning and wealth in Hong Kong, as status and titles have unfortunately taken over humility and humanity. In order to combat this harsh attitude, people of Hong Kong must embrace the people in their society that make them uncomfortable.
  7. Cyber cafes have become havens for the poor. Hong Kongers who fall below the poverty line and cannot afford to house have taken to spending their days and nights at cyber cafes. For a low cost of entry, cyber cafes provide shelter and internet access between jobs for the poor.
  8. Hong Kong’s bureaucracy is one of the causes of the problem. The issues the homeless face could be solved, but government division has slowed progress. Separate departments cover similar issues but have no central governing body. Experts suggest that examples from New York’s consolidated Department of Homeless Services should be followed.
  9. Nongovernmental organizations could help Hong Kong. Government leasing of properties occurs in Hong Kong but leasing from nongovernmental organizations could greatly assist those in need. Government support of organizations who control these properties would allow for the poor and homeless to be taken care of effectively by trained professionals.
  10. The wealth distribution is uneven. The top 10 percent in Hong Kong earn roughly 44 times more than the lowest 10 percent who fall far below the top monthly earnings. This income divide is further pushed by wealthy business interests who influence politicians. This directly damages the ability of the poor and homeless to receive any assistance.

While poverty is a massive issue in Hong Kong, individuals and governing bodies can no longer turn a blind eye. For the sake of those in need, the country and its politicians must take notice of the damaged parts of their society, as it is shown in these top 10 facts about poverty in Hong Kong.

– Zach Margolis

Photo: Flickr

Education in Hong Kong: Problems and Solutions

Similar to the British system, education in Hong Kong consists of a 9-year compulsory education for students aged six to 15. Before enrolling in university, most students complete 12 years of study at public or government-aided schools, which are generally free to attend. However, there also exists a private international school system that is in high demand in Hong Kong: the schools are highly competitive to enroll in and boast very high tuition and schooling fees.

The education system in Hong Kong ranks high, though there are a few evident problems. Experts claim that quite a few schools overly stress “reciting” material, which requires students to memorize information verbatim. Further, the “spoon-fed” teaching style does not allow for lively student debates or the promotion of critical thinking. There is a worry that the mechanical reciting and negative acceptance of learning materials will restrain potential creativity and imagination among students. Other major problems of the current education system include low enrolment rates in local universities as well as social and psychological problems among students due to high stress.

There are advantages of getting an education in Hong Kong: one is that the use of English is more popularized in Hong Kong, as compared to mainland China. However, with respect to the education itself, there is no major difference between schools in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The system of education in Hong Kong makes it quite difficult for local students in Hong Kong to connect with Chinese culture and mainland China. In addition, many teachers in Hong Kong are greatly influenced by Western education; thus, they are more likely to recognize the issues of freedom, democracy and human rights as opposed to strengthening their identities with the mainland region. At the moment, both primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong are encouraged by the central government of China to set up curriculums that include Chinese teaching and bilingual learning.

There have been 3,714 cultural exchange programs with nearly 60,000 participants from mainland China to Hong Kong and Macao from 2006 to 2010. Both the scale and quality of cultural exchange has grown in the past decade. The exchange programs that have been included in the education in Hong Kong encourage closing the culture gap between students of these regions.

As mentioned earlier, pressures of higher education in Hong Kong have led to increased stress among students. This is fuelled by a prevailing ideology among the Hong Kong society that nothing is achieved without attending university. More than 80,000 high school graduates compete for one of the 15,000 government-subsidized first-year university spots each year.

Greater efforts must be made to address the stress faced by students within the system of education in Hong Kong. At the moment, the Hong Kong Children and Youth Services helps those who have a tendency of violence. Its staff provides services in addition to speaking gently, listening to the youth and helping them process their thoughts with patience and empathy. The Hong Kong Youth and Children Education Center opened in 2013, offering self-sponsored services and free testing for kids of families in need. It facilitates would be capable of helping them recollect self-esteem, increase resilience and coping skills.

Education in Hong Kong is moving towards an advanced global education system while also placing efforts on fusing the cultures between mainland China and itself. Reasonable solutions and measures depend not only on efforts by the government, schools and society, but also relies on the interactions between teachers, students and their families.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

A Prospect of Solutions to Hunger in Hong KongAs a cosmopolitan region with high economic prosperity, hunger in Hong Kong is often overlooked, since there are both short-term food assistance and governmental welfare systems available. However, as one of the most densely populated cities in the world with seven million residents, hunger for a healthy diet exists among low-income families in Hong Kong.

According to a 2014 joint study by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the Social Work Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, about 70,000 people lack fresh fruit and vegetables for daily consumption, while 40,000 people cannot afford to eat three meals per day.

There is also some argument as to whether Hong Kong is a well-developed or developing region. As indicated by a 2012 census report, Hong Kong’s 15.2 percent poverty rate suggests that around one million people may experience a risk of hunger and related health issues. The population of working poor was estimated at 644,000, while one-third of senior citizens and one-fifth of children live below the poverty line in Hong Kong. In addition, there is a significant gap between the rich and the poor.

The most common ways for low-income families to reduce their living costs include purchasing food on sale in large supermarkets or accepting food donations from charitable organizations. Households that are highly dependent on cheap food have a higher risk of malnutrition and related health and social issues due to the poor quality of food.

In the past few years, several nonprofit organizations have carried out several projects to improve the diets of people living under the poverty line in Hong Kong. The Feeding Hong Kong program both collects and delivers surplus fruits, vegetables and canned foods through multiple charitable organizations and communities. The Food for Thought project focuses on seniors by arranging food donations in the basketball court of Tin Yiu Estate once a week. They provide surplus food donated by market stalls and offer it to anyone who comes, with no means testing required.

While there is still a long march to eliminate the negative impacts of hunger in Hong Kong, many organizations are working to eliminate food waste and get it into the hands of those who need it most.

Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in Hong Kong
Just like its skyscrapers, the cost of living in Hong Kong is among the highest anywhere in the world. In a Mercer survey published in June 2017, Hong Kong was named the second most expensive city globally for expatriates to live and first among developed nations.

Hong Kong is a destination city for businesses and professionals alike, boasting over 4,000 individuals worth over $30 million each. Many businesses have found Hong Kong to be one of the most agreeable cities to reside in due to the low 16.5% corporate tax rate.

For the less fortunate, however, the cost of living in Hong Kong is confining– literally.

With a monthly wage of $2,652, the average Hong Kong citizen spends most of their earnings on rent alone. The smallest apartments in Hong Kong cost around $1,000 per month, with more spacious units ranging from $2,000-2,500 before utilities. Many Hong Kong residents work longer hours and split small flats into sleeping cubicles in order to save on rent.

With so much disposable income being eaten up by housing costs, many residents face the very real problem of food insecurity. Going out to restaurants has become a luxury, as many people must now rely on charitable donations and government assistance to eat.

For Hong Kong’s poorest, those living on less than $328 a month, the cost of rent in Hong Kong makes living in the city unsustainable. Over 30% of the city’s elderly population lives in poverty, while the wealthiest families make over 44 times what the average citizen makes.

Economists have urged the government of Hong Kong to institute universal incomes and pensions to prevent the wealth gap from widening. Efforts to address the growing wealth inequality in the country must be made with urgency for the sake of Hong Kong’s struggling citizens.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Pixabay

Common Diseases in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s socio-economic advancement has both improved and deteriorated the status of its public health. While infectious diseases are no longer considered a common threat to citizens, illnesses correlated with societal improvement have emerged as common diseases in Hong Kong. The current medical burdens for Hong Kong are long-term illnesses such as obesity, respiratory illnesses and dementia.

With greater food security and economic prosperity comes greater liberty to choose the desired quality and quantity of food sources. An increasingly urban population hungry for the convenience of Western fast-food cuisine has made obesity one of the most common diseases in Hong Kong. A highly susceptible target of obesity in Hong Kong is its middle class; cheaper, high-calorie meals combined with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle strain the status of health for this social class. Although Hong Kong is a high-income region of China, it chooses to buy nutritionally deficient food for accessibility and indulgence.

Poor air quality and the prevalence of smoking among adults make respiratory illnesses an increasing concern. The National Health Center for Biotechnology Information claims that “respiratory disease is responsible for the highest health-care burden locally. Increased efforts in improving management and prevention of these diseases, including tobacco control, improving air quality and vaccination against influenza and pneumococci, are necessary.” Three million deaths induced by respiratory illness associated with smoking occur per year; this statistic is expected to increase to 10 million by 2025 (with two million of those deaths taking place in China) according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Addressing Hong Kong’s poor air quality due to industrial carbon emissions and social attitude towards smoking is unavoidable for the future of public health.

Hong Kong’s high life expectancy comes with its drawbacks. With an increasingly older population, dementia is becoming more prevalent among Hong Kong’s citizens. The lack of care facilities specializing in treatment for dementia adds pressure to the medical epidemic. However, the increasing presence of the disease has brought with it awareness, and thus it has received national attention. This awareness may be helpful in accommodating dementia sufferers with more treatment centers and medical options.

Mobilization is the most effective solution, due to the socioeconomic-induced nature of these common diseases in Hong Kong. Citizens must promote and sustain healthier models of living for the health of the public as well as the environment. Through integrated cooperation of Hong Kong’s citizens, corporations and the government, the adverse effects can slow down, creating a healthier future.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr


For the past decade, an overwhelming number of incidents involving the suicides of school-aged children in Hong Kong occurred. Since 2013, more than 70 student suicides have been reported. In February alone, three happened over an eight-day period. This issue has greatly contributed to cries for increased mental health awareness in Hong Kong.

Part of the concern always revolved around the academic intensity of Hong Kong’s education system. However, the Legislative Council denies the connection. The chairman of the Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides, University of Hong Kong’s Professor Paul Yip Siu-Fai, says a number of factors contribute to each case, so the issue cannot be viewed as academic rigor alone.

The Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides formed in response to the influx of student suicides over the 2016 academic year. A total of 35 students took their own lives, with at least one as young as 11 years old. The Committee recommends that schools and families work together to address all contributing factors. Specifically targeting academic strain, personal relationships, access to mental health services and non-academic hobbies to improve mental health awareness.

The Education Bureau is currently under the process of taking these recommendations into consideration. Part of the program would include a more effective provision of counseling and mental health services to students, encouragement of extracurricular accomplishments and training to recognize and address the warning signs of serious mental health conditions in students.

Another facet of addressing increasing rates of student suicides is ensuring proper media coverage. This means that the media reports on the issues and the specific cases, rather than neglecting them, and doing so in a way that succeeds in not sensationalizing the issues of suicide and mental health awareness in Hong Kong.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

Congress and Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act
Florida’s Republican Senator and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Marco Rubio and Republican Arizona Senator Tom Cotton introduced a revised version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to congress. The revision comes as a response to the recent abductions of booksellers and the removal of Hong Kong pro-independence leaders from office.

The city of Hong Kong has been a special administrative region of China since 1997. The relationship between Hong Kong and China works under the principle “One Country, Two Systems.” Other than foreign affairs and defense, Hong Kong operates independently.

However, in the past year, there have been conflicts between the two entities. According to Rubio, the act will “renew the United States’ historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault.”

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms the principles of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. In addition to the U.S. support of democratic actions, freedom of expression and the upholding of human rights, it also warns against the government of the People’s Republic of China from obstructing Hong Kong’s independence.

The revised act will also require that Hong Kong issue an annual report, and the U.S. Secretary of State will determine if it is operating independently. Furthermore, the act calls to freeze the assets of individuals who violate the rights of Hong Kong citizens.

The act cites cases in which pro-democracy activists have been harassed. Some have had legal charges pressed against them, while others have faced travel restrictions. Members of the press have disappeared after publishing works criticizing Beijing. Journalists who have done the same have been physically attacked.

“China’s assault on democratic institutions and human rights is of central importance to the people of Hong Kong and of its status as a free market, economic powerhouse, and hub for international trade and investment,” Rubio said. “It is critical in the days ahead that the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong be a vital U.S. interest and foreign policy priority.”

By introducing the new Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, it aims to draw attention to the increased reports of human rights violations in Hong Kong linked to China, as well as punish those who do not uphold democracy.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr