Frustration of surviving in pricey Hong Kong stirs protest anger

Primary school teacher Eunice Wai, 30, poses for a picture in her family's apartment in Hong Kong, on June 25, 2019.
Primary school teacher Eunice Wai, 30, poses for a picture in her family's apartment in Hong Kong, on June 25, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS
(Top) Eunice Wai in a room of her family's apartment and laundry hanging out to dry in a residential apartment complex in Hong Kong.
(Bottom) Michael Ho, a graduate of Government and International Studies, in a room of his family's apartment and res
(Top) Eunice Wai in a room of her family's apartment and laundry hanging out to dry in a residential apartment complex in Hong Kong. (Bottom) Michael Ho, a graduate of Government and International Studies, in a room of his family's apartment and residential apartment blocks in Hong Kong.PHOTO: REUTERS
(Top) Maisy Mok, a student studying international journalism, in a room of her family's apartment and a design feature in a staircase of a residential apartment block in Hong Kong.
(Bottom) William Lun, an aspiring lawyer, in a room of his family's
(Top) Maisy Mok, a student studying international journalism, in a room of her family's apartment and a design feature in a staircase of a residential apartment block in Hong Kong. (Bottom) William Lun, an aspiring lawyer, in a room of his family's apartment and residential apartment blocks in Hong Kong.PHOTO: REUTERS
(Top) Zaleena Ho, film studies graduate, in a room of her family's and laundry hanging out to dry in a residential apartment complex in Hong Kong.
(Bottom) Roy Lam, who works in HR, in a room of his family's apartment and pipes on a wall of a reside
(Top) Zaleena Ho, film studies graduate, in a room of her family's and laundry hanging out to dry in a residential apartment complex in Hong Kong. (Bottom) Roy Lam, who works in HR, in a room of his family's apartment and pipes on a wall of a residential apartment block in Hong Kong.PHOTO: REUTERS
(Top) Sonic Lee, a musician and composer, in a room of his family's apartment and bin liners stuck in the letterboxes of apartments  Hong Kong.
(Bottom) John Wai, an engineer, in a room of his family's apartment and residential apartment blocks in H
(Top) Sonic Lee, a musician and composer, in a room of his family's apartment and bin liners stuck in the letterboxes of apartments Hong Kong. (Bottom) John Wai, an engineer, in a room of his family's apartment and residential apartment blocks in Hong Kong.PHOTO: REUTERS
(Top) Fung Cheng, a graphic designer in a room of his family's apartment and residential apartment blocks in Hong Kong.
(Bottom) Ruby Leung, a law student, in a room of her family's apartment and residential apartment blocks in Hong Kong.
(Top) Fung Cheng, a graphic designer in a room of his family's apartment and residential apartment blocks in Hong Kong. (Bottom) Ruby Leung, a law student, in a room of her family's apartment and residential apartment blocks in Hong Kong.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Young people in Hong Kong have been at the forefront of violent protests over a proposed extradition law that have shaken the city and angered Beijing.

At the root of the protests is concern over what many people see as the inexorable erosion of civil liberties and the city's autonomy by Beijing, which refuses to grant full democracy in the former British colony.

But many young people in one of the world's most densely populated and expensive cities are also infuriated by sky-high living costs, and a feeling that a home of one's own is just a dream.

Reuters spoke to 11 young people in their tiny bedrooms in their parents' homes about their political concerns and frustrations about life in the Chinese-ruled city.

Ms Eunice Wai, a 30-year-old primary school teacher, sitting on rainbow-coloured sheets in her 7.4 sq m bedroom explained how Hong Kong people felt stifled by Beijing: "They control people more and give us less freedom."

But Ms Wai said other problems made life increasingly difficult, in particular what she said was an unfair housing policy that only seemed to make the rich richer.

"Housing is one of the most important ones. We have so little room in Hong Kong and people find it hard to buy a flat. The property companies control the market."

 
 

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

But many in Hong Kong resent what they see as Beijing's creeping control and its refusal to let its residents directly elect their leader.

China denies interfering in Hong Kong and warned this week that the violent protests over the proposed legislation allowing extraditions to mainland China were an "undisguised challenge" to the formula under which it is ruled.

'HOPELESS'

Mr Fung Cheng, a 25-year-old graphic designer living with his parents and brother, vented his frustration at a system that he believes has robbed him of the chance to ever have his own home.

Mr Cheng, perched on his bunk above a white desk in his 5 sq m bedroom, said Hong Kong's Beijing-backed governor Carrie Lam, who was chosen as leader in 2017 in a vote by an electoral college approved by Beijing, just didn't listen to the people.

"It's the system's problem... They don't need a vote to be the government, there is no democracy," he said.

 
 

Mrs Lam has suspended the hated extradition Bill and said it would lapse next year. But the protesters want it scrapped and have called for her to step down.

Mr Michael Ho, a bespectacled 24-year-old graduate who also lives with his parents, said the protests were also about unjust circumstances that prevent young people living their dreams.

"It's just hopeless for young people to grow, to develop their career because of the pricing problem," he said.

On average, people seeking public housing in the city of 7.4 million people have to wait 5.5 years. The average living space is 40 sq m.

Mr Roy Lam, who lives with his mother and four sisters, said young people were determined to stand up for what they deserved, but it was hard to stay positive.

"We do also sometimes think 'let's just give up, let's just move to someplace else'."