Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hong Kong feng shui for the poor

Many claim Hong Kong is one of Asia's wealthiest cities because its geographical position between water & mountains provides good feng shui & because its buildings, including corporate offices, are constructed on feng shui principles. The Hong Kong government actually has a feng shui budget for public work projects. To combat negative & harmful chi, many buildings are built with octagonal or round rooms, with mirrors, without 4th floors (because “four” is pronounced the same as “death”). One building has a large hole through the center to allow negative energy to pass through without affecting the bank accounts of the occupants.

Since Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world & the largest number of billionaires in Asia, some claim feng shui is really paying off. But any closer inspection will show that Hong Kong megabucks are not based on mystical gimmicks but on good old-fashioned plunder & exploitation. Hong Kong maintains a capitalist economy under China’s policy of “one country, two systems” & serves primarily as a financial center & a distribution center for Chinese-made goods. But as mainland China adopts more neoliberal economic models the distinction between capitalism & socialism is becoming blunted in terms of quality of life.

In the midst of immense wealth, an estimated 100,000 to 400,000 Hong Kong residents, including working poor, immigrant workers, elderly, & unemployed are homeless or living in cage dwellings--rooms partitioned into tiny cubicles, metal cages more like rabbit hutches piled on top of each other, & rooftop shacks. Most of these dwellings have no cooking facilities, shared toilets, no air conditioning or heat, are filthy, & infested with cockroaches, rats, & bed bugs. The rents are not cheap & as a matter of fact are more expensive per square foot than luxury apartments. It isn’t lack of feng shui or harmful chi raining down on these slum dwellers but massive, unconscionable greed.

Apparently the Hong Kong government’s feng shui budget doesn’t include public housing. While there is a 5-year-long waiting list of 210,000 applicants for public housing, only 15,000 units per year have been built in the recent past. A huge percentage of applicants are immigrants from mainland China but there is a 7-year residency requirement to be eligible for housing. It should be added that immigrant workers within mainland China face exactly the same living conditions in the cities. Housing is a human right & it looks like there needs to be another revolution in China.

(Photo by Brian Cassey)

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