Nineteen years after Hong Kong was handed over to China, our society is witnessing polarization of unprecedented proportions, with social discontent mounting and the wealth gap continuing to widen.
Among the numerous factors that are contributing to the mounting grievances among the public is the hegemony of the profit-thirsty Link REIT, which now answers only to big institutional investors and pursues high returns at the expense of tens of thousands of grass-roots residents and small business owners across our public housing estates.
To free the public from the relentless rip-offs imposed on them by Link, some have suggested that outdoor flea markets be introduced to public housing estates as a permanent measure to combat the monopoly of Link’s shopping malls.
At a recent Legislative Council meeting, lawmakers from different political parties showed unanimous support for the idea and slammed the administration for all the bureaucracy and red tape that are standing in the way of the establishment of flea markets in public housing estates.
Some legislators even suspected that the administration is dragging its feet over approval of the plan because it is under pressure from Link.
It wasn’t until recently that the government finally conceded that there are fundamental flaws in the way new towns such as Tung Chung and Tin Shui Wai were laid out in the first place and that as a result tens of thousands of residents have been deprived of their access to public wet markets where affordable food and daily commodities are available.
To address the issue, the Development Bureau has vowed to study the feasibility of building more public wet markets in these new towns.
While the government’s admission of its own mistakes might be its first positive step toward returning the lives of public housing estate residents to normal, it might take years for the administration to deliver on its promise.
To address the urgent needs of our fellow citizens for affordable goods, we must engage them on the plan to introduce flea markets to public housing estates, by adopting a bottom-up approach to the decision-making and planning process, and let them decide what sorts of markets will be established in their neighborhoods and what kinds of goods will be sold there.
Only then can our fellow citizens be freed from the tyranny of big businesses and be able to take their lives back into their own hands as soon as possible.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 6.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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