12th March 2023 – (Hong Kong) Increasing number of Mainland Chinese beggars with disabilities have been spotted on the streets of Hong Kong since the border between Hong Kong and Mainland China reopened. This has raised concerns among citizens, with some claiming that “more talents have come to Hong Kong.” Many netizens have witnessed begging process of several individuals with suspected disabilities, some of whom were seen performing on the streets while others lay still, waiting for donations. Police have made several arrests, and the Immigration Department has placed the personal information of convicted Mainland Chinese beggars on a watchlist. Despite the decrease in the number of arrests for begging-related offences in Hong Kong during the pandemic, nine people have been arrested in the first two months of 2023, which is more than the total number of arrests made in the past three years. Netizens have uploaded photos of suspected Mainland Chinese beggars or disabled people begging in Hong Kong on social media. However, it is essential to consider the factors that could lead to a rise in beggars in Hong Kong and offer long-term solutions to the issue.
As of February 26th, the police have arrested nine men and women, aged between 34 and 73, for illegally begging in Hong Kong, with seven of them holding two-way permits. The Immigration Department has stated that the personal information of Mainland Chinese beggars who have been convicted in Hong Kong will be placed on the watchlist. If they attempt to enter Hong Kong again, they will be intercepted and thoroughly questioned. If their visit to Hong Kong is deemed suspicious, they will be denied entry.
Since the border reopening between Hong Kong and Mainland China, the police and Immigration Department have increased patrols in high-risk areas and streets with heavy pedestrian traffic. Although the number of arrests for begging-related offences in Hong Kong has significantly decreased over the past three years due to pandemic-related border closures, only seven people were arrested in the past three years, with only one local resident arrested in 2021 and zero arrests made in 2022. However, in the first two months of 2023, nine people have already been arrested, which is more than the total number of arrests made in the past three years during the pandemic. It is also close to one-third of the total number of arrests made in 2019, which was before the border closure.
These beggars could easily be found at locations with high foot traffic, such as MTR entrances and exits, busy street corners, and markets. Many of them were elderly and had difficulty moving, with some singing and performing in exchange for money. Some even brought their dogs to beg for money. They begged irregularly, moving to other locations if there was no “business.” Many of the beggars spoke Cantonese.
In February this year, a Mainland woman in Mong Kok offered to sell her body for HK$300,000 to bury the remains of “her father”. Her antics caused heated discussions. A netizen recently shared on social media that there were two suspected disabled beggars outside the Yuen Long market on Wang Fat Path on 6th February. A man with a hat was sitting on the ground with knee pads on both legs while another man with deformed limbs was lying on a trolley. A netizen who saw them pointed out that the beggar and the ‘deformed’ man were able to move freely without any disabilities at all, and the two even sat side by side to eat. They used props such as prosthetic legs and hands to scam unwary passers-by. He then advises Hong Kong people not to donate money to beggars on the street casually as they may be scammers.
The Immigration Department has stated that they will continue to monitor the situation closely and take necessary measures to prevent illegal activities by Mainland Chinese beggars in Hong Kong. They have also urged the public to report any suspicious activities to the police. The police have reminded the public to be vigilant and not to give money to beggars, as it may encourage illegal activities.
According to sources who spoke to local reporters, some elderly individuals who have received government subsidies are struggling to make ends meet as the amount provided is not sufficient to cover their basic living expenses. After paying their rent each month, they are left with very little money and have to find additional ways to support themselves. Some of these individuals are in their seventies and others are unable to work due to health issues, and as a result, they are resorting to begging on the streets and are seeking donations from the public to make ends meet.
Social workers have noted that while it is uncommon for elderly individuals to resort to begging after paying their rent, it is a reality for those who are living in private apartments or subdivided flats due to the heavy burden of rent. The situation is even more challenging for those who are elderly and in poor health as they face greater difficulty finding work. Social workers recommend that vulnerable groups seek the assistance of social workers to find appropriate help.
The issue of long-term Mainland Chinese beggars on the streets of Hong Kong is a complex and multifaceted one that requires a comprehensive solution. On one hand, some argue that these individuals are victims of poverty and discrimination in their home country, and that they are simply trying to make a living. On the other hand, there are concerns about the legality of their activities, as well as the impact that they may have on the local community and economy.
It is important to note that Hong Kong has a relatively high standard of living compared to many other parts of Asia, and that there are already significant social and economic challenges facing the city, such as housing affordability, income inequality, and ageing population. The influx of Mainland Chinese beggars may exacerbate these issues, and there are concerns that some may engage in criminal activities such as pickpocketing and theft.
However, it is also important to consider the human rights and dignity of these individuals. Many of them may have disabilities or other vulnerabilities that make it difficult for them to find employment or support themselves in other ways. Some may have been forced to leave their home country due to political or economic instability.
Addressing the root causes of poverty and homelessness among these individuals is key to resolving the issue in the long term.
One potential solution is to provide these individuals with access to affordable housing and social services in the Mainland. This would give them a stable base from which to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society. Additionally, providing job training and employment opportunities can help these individuals become self-sufficient and reduce their reliance on begging.
Another approach is to increase cooperation between Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese authorities to address the issue. This could include increased border controls and joint law enforcement efforts to crack down on criminal activities associated with begging.
Education and public awareness campaigns can also play a role in addressing the issue. Raising awareness about the root causes of poverty and homelessness, as well as the negative impact of giving to beggars, can encourage individuals to give to charities and social service providers instead.
Therefore, any solution to the issue of Mainland Chinese beggars in Hong Kong must balance the need to uphold the rule of law and protect the local community with the need to ensure the basic human rights and dignity of these individuals are respected. This requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses both the root causes of their poverty and homelessness, as well as the short-term challenges that they face.