By Solaire Hauser
HONG KONG – Chan Sing Shun shoulders his backpack as he stands on the front step of his small hut. The gray-haired man, wearing a gray pullover, black sports trousers and a black jacket, is off to do volunteer work for the elderly community.
Chan is one of three residents sharing a small complex of three huts in a village called Ping Che in the northeastern New Territories in Hong Kong. He moved to the area when he was about 20 years old and has been living there for approximately 40 years. Now, at around 60, Chan has to fear losing his home, as a government plan intending to replace the shacks and organic farms in the area with residential buildings threatens to leave an estimated 10,000 residents no chance but to leave the place they call home.
The plan has evoked protests by the villagers, who don’t want the government to build “another concrete jungle,” according to one of the protesters, Chang Guichai.
“This is our Central Park. We don’t want another artificial park,” he says.
Chan, who has been a school bus driver in Hong Kong before a stroke in 2010 forced him into retirement, does not worry too much about the impact the government plan might have on his farm. The vegetables he grows, he says, are not for sale, it is only a hobby for him. However, he wants the government to offer redemption for residents who will lose their homes if the plan is put into practice. So far, none has been offered.
The hut Chan lives in consists of two rooms, the first one equipped with a couch, a table, a few pictures and shelves on the wall, as well as a flat TV. In the adjoining room, Chan often sits at his computer in the afternoon to play chess or mahjong. He calls his living arrangements, in his matter-of-fact tone, “not inconvenient.”
Since his ex-wife left, together with his son and daughter, Chan has been living in the shack with an adjoining kitchen alone, and he wouldn’t mind moving somewhere else. However, the HK$ 3,000 he receives every month since he had his stroke are not enough to find a new place to live in the city, since he says that the housing prices in Hong Kong are much higher than what residents pay for their homes in Ping Che. Therefore, he supports the protesters, who are demanding a revision of the government plan.