Beijing’s point man on Hong Kong affairs urges government to bolster community facilities to ease conditions for those in subdivided flats

Beijing’s point man on Hong Kong affairs has told the government to step up its efforts in providing community facilities to ease the tough conditions faced by residents living in subdivided flats.

Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, on Sunday morning called for the focus on the underprivileged after visiting low-income families in Sham Shui Po at a “community living room”, a government-led project to provide additional space to tenants of subdivided flats.

The Beijing official is on the fourth day of a seven-day trip – longer than any of his previous visits – to understand the city’s economic development and district governance.

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Before the visit, Xia, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and some government ministers went for yum cha at a dim sum restaurant in Wong Tai Sin.

Following breakfast, Xia toured the city’s first government-led community living room on Fuk Wah Street, which allows underprivileged households to meet and greet neighbours, cook, dine, do laundry and shower while children are also able to make use of the space to do homework.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han said the Beijing official had noted that the project was “moving in the right direction”.

“He feels that the project addresses the difficulties and pain of subdivided flat residents, and encourages us to do more,” he said after the tour.

The first Hong Kong government-led ‘community living room’ in Sham Shui Po at its unveiling in December. Photo: Jelly Tse

At least 220,000 people in the city live in subdivided flats – homes carved up by separating a property into tiny cubicles that often pose hygiene and fire safety hazards.

Sun said the government would roll out at least three more similar projects in the next six months in Sham Shui Po and Kowloon City.

The community centre, donated by Sino Group, was opened in December.

A 44-year-old housewife, only identified by her surname Peng, said more such facilities were needed.

Peng exchanged a few words with Xia in the communal kitchen, where she and a few neighbours were making pancakes.

“[He] praised the children for helping out in the kitchen and I shared with him what I usually cook here,” she said.

“The community living room helped me a lot … it would be great if more such facilities could be set up to support people in need.”

Derek Leung, a seven-year-old boy, said he was reading a book about Chinese geography when Xia spoke to him.

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“[He] taught me how to read the words and said I could definitely visit Tiananmen Square in Beijing on my own in the future,” he said. “He was very kind to me.”

In the afternoon, Xia will meet the Law Society, Bar Association and representatives from media outlets at Hong Kong government headquarters in Admiralty.

He said the mission of the trip, the second in 10 months, was to plan a “new stage of development” for the city by working with the administration and all sectors of society.

Xia arrived in the city on Thursday and will depart on Wednesday, when Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po unveils his latest budget blueprint.

Apart from local officials and lawmakers, the top Beijing official has also met business leaders and tycoons, urging them to keep faith with the city and assuring that the “one country, two systems” governing principle will continue.

Xia also told district councillors and community leaders to act as a bridge between the government and the people.


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