Tin Shui Wai in the Northeastern part of Hong Kong is called the city of sadness for the many social and family problems it has such as suicide, domestic violence and poverty. It, for instance, has the highest unemployment rate (9%) across the territory. The place is congested with public housing where the low income families live, many of them new migrants from mainland China. Yes, almost only public housing, non-descript and packed together.
I have never been to Tin Shui Wai until recently. There is a shopping mall next to the district’s Light Rail station Ginza, and this is what I saw in front of its entrance.What was the group of people doing? They were studying and betting on the horse racing. There were so many of them, all men, looking at the racing papers, smoking. If you step into the mall, right at the left is a Hong Kong Jockey Club abuzz with people. It looks like the centre of activity of the mall, and the whole area.
The mall itself feels gloomy, filled by fast food restaurants, low-end stores and stores to be rented. It is simply ironic that the mall, like the Light Rail station, is named Ginza, after the most famous upmarket shopping and dining district in Japan. It is like HK’s real estate developers naming their developments with pretense of luxury after some of the world’s big brand names like Beverly Hill and charging exorbitant prices for a small flat.
Tin Shui Wai, however, is not necessarily like this. It might have less sadness were it not for a secret agreement in the 1980s which limited the commercial development of the area. According to a report in the South China Morning Post last December, the agreement was signed by the colonial government and private developer Mightycity Company, now partly owned by the city’s billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong, ensuring that retail businesses in government-owned buildings posed no competition to those in privately developed sections of the area. This, understandably, had seriously undermined the business activity of the district. The agreement was cancelled in 2002.
Nothing in the world exists for no reason, it seems to me.