It is 8:30am. Peak hour for commuting to work. The location is outside Tseung Kwan O MTR station. There is a long queue there.A queue for free newspapers. Aren’t people in a hurry for going to work? Yes. That is why those in the queue are mostly elderly or housewives. They have time. And they don’t want to spend hk$6 for a copy of Chinese newspaper. So they come every morning (except weekends) for the freebies.
What is more, they not only queue for free newspapers. They fight to collect them so that they can sell them as waste paper to earn a little bit of money. I often use Hung Hom MTR station in the morning rush hour, where, outside Exit A, always stand at least two women – sometimes as many as four – in their fifties and sixties, waiting to collect free newspapers from the commuters. It is a battleground. They must fight to be the quickest to spot the right targets. A couple of times, a man brought a really big plastic bag inside the station, and opened it wide, asking the commuters to drop in their newspapers. I felt sorry for the women outside the exit, who would have fewer clients than usual.
One day, there was a commotion outside Tseung Kwan O MTR station. The people who distributed the paper were accusing a skinny elderly man at the front of the queue of getting the free newspaper twice. There was a row and even a fight. I didn’t want to pause and watch. I couldn’t bear. Why should the newspaper people be so rude? Even if these people queue up twice just to get the newspaper, so what?
Life for the elderly in Hong Kong is not easy. They don’t have pension funds to rely on. All they have, if they are over 65, are a monthly allowance of hk$1000, which is justifiably called fruit money- money enough for buying fruit, not for living. We therefore see Hong Kong’s elderly everywhere for free newspapers -they will queue up for them, fight for them, and keenly collect them.