"As a result, the neighbourhood was divided and the tenants encountered contradictory politics. The outcome of these struggles was disappointing… only a handful of tenants finally reclaimed their housing rights."
Some urban poor in the Tsuen Wan case study improved their housing conditions and in most cases, people received offers of some cash compensation. However, they still found it difficult to actually improve their housing conditions.
"On the face of it, it may appear they have received compensation, but in reality, these people have suffered from displacement in many ways, including the denial of the rights to housing.
Dr. Tang says his findings imply that Hong Kong is undergoing a new wave of redevelopment but unless the resulting contradictions and inequities are dealt with appropriately, the "space of hope for the urban poor remains slim."
The answer, Dr. Tang says, is for Hong Kong to begin a broad spectrum debate on its urban future.
"We need to look at the present regime and decide whether this is the right way to go… or is there another way that will better ensure social justice and the rights of the city. Everyone here has the right to live and to live with civic pride. The urban poor have contributed to the city's prosperity; we need to recognise their contribution and the fact that they too have rights to our city."
Dr. Tang and his team are now assisting the Wanchai District Council to look at issues the Tsuen Wan study has raised.
Dr. Tang Wing Shing
Department of Geography
Hong Kong Baptist University