- Title: Tourists step into the darker side of Hong Kong
- Date: 9th August 2017
- Summary: HONG KONG, CHINA (FILE) (REUTERS) MAN CLIMBING INTO HIS COFFIN HOME / MAN REACHING FOR THE REMOTE TO SWITCH ON HIS TV EXTERIOR OF COFFIN HOME MAN LIGHTING CIGARETTE INSIDE HIS COFFIN HOME
- Embargoed: 23rd August 2017 11:02
- Keywords: freedom of speech pro-democracy poverty tourism housing prices homelessness coffin apartments China injustice Hong Kong
- Location: HONG KONG, CHINA
- City: HONG KONG, CHINA
- Country: China
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0026TKN805
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Hong Kong is well-known for its shiny skyscrapers and sky-high apartment blocks, which provide for a breathtaking view for the hundreds of tourists that make their way up to the famous Victoria Peak every day.
But across Victoria Harbour, tour guide Alla Lau, 26, is leading a much smaller group of tourists through a very different scene - the less glamourous underbelly of the wealthy city, where soaring house prices have pushed close to 970,000 of its 7 million population below the poverty line.
Lau, who joined Hong Kong Free Tours less than a year ago, is determined to show tourists an alternate view of the city as she believes most tour companies barely scratch the surface of its glitzy facade. She runs more than nine tours a week, each with about a dozen tourists.
Walking past a homeless community, Lau explains how many locals pay up to $1,600 Hong Kong dollars ($205) a month to live in tiny 20-square-feet (1.86-square-metre) subdivided apartments known as 'coffin homes'. Demand for this type of housing has grown as property prices in the financial hub jumped 20 percent in April from a year ago, making it one of the world's most expensive residential markets.
The tour continues past elderly men and women selling knick knacks in Hong Kong's poorest area, Sham Shui Po, and through sheltered walkways where domestic helpers gather.
Barry Franks, who was on holiday from England, thought the tour was eye-opening.
"It was very authentic," Franks said. "Having a chance to go around at a street level to see what it's like in the more densely populated parts of the city... it does contrast with the other side of the water, the richer Hong Kong."
Across the water, Hong Kong Free Tours Founder Michael Tsang - who quit his job in finance in April to start the company - takes another group of tourists around Hong Kong Island's business district, showing them the locations where the mass sit-in demonstrations often known as the Umbrella Revolution brought the city to a standstill for close to three months in 2014.
Both he and Lau took part in the protests and believe it is important to talk about Hong Kong's relationship with China while the city's autonomy, including freedom of speech, still stands.
"Given our political situation in Hong Kong nowadays, I'm sure something will happen again," Lau said, referring to the 2014 pro-democracy protests. "Maybe they'll care a bit more about it" were a similar situation to repeat itself, she added.
Though Tsang believes there is a possibility they will have to change how they operate and the ideas they are sharing in the future, he says his company will continue doing what they're doing for as long as they are able.
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