Where Home Is a ‘Coffin’

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Inhumane living conditions in Hong Kong revealed in pictures.

  • UN says “an insult to human dignity”
  • 1m x 2m space for RM1,338 rental monthly
  • Can’t even sleep with legs stretched

We complain of unaffordable housing in the city, where prices keep going up and sizes keep going down. Even if you live in a small apartment unit in the Klang Valley, which we discovered is 300 sq ft, your abode is envied by some 200,000 Hong Kong residents who would view your space as luxurious.


To bring home the reality of how deplorable housing conditions are for the cash-strapped in Hong Kong, a photographer has captured the cages and what has been dubbed as “coffin homes” where man and all his possessions share a space no larger than a coffin.

The UN has condemned them “an insult to human dignity”.

Looking at the images is already claustrophobic.

You literally crawl in and out of your home and you won’t be able to stand or walk around inside. Some can’t even sleep with their legs stretched in the 3′ x 6′ (1m x 2m) space.


If you think the rental is correspondingly small, you’re in for a shock. The tiny cubicle costs HK$2,400 (RM1,338) monthly.

Common facilities such as a single sink and grimy toilets are shared by two dozen people.

Over the past five years, rental prices have skyrocketed in Hong Kong, rendering it the most unaffordable major housing market in the world. Increasing by nearly 50 per cent, Hong Kong housing rental ranks higher than Sydney, London and New York. Home prices have risen 370 per cent since a six-year slump ended in 2003. Rents and residential property prices are now at or near all-time highs.

According to the Associated Press, 200,000 of Hong Kong’s 7.3 million residents leave in the “subdivided units” which can comprise of one 120 sq ft (11 sqm) room. Young people despair of ever owning homes of heir own.


It’s a world away from the lifestyles enjoyed by the rich living in lavish mountaintop mansions and luxury penthouses, or even those with middle-class accommodation.

It’s this widening inequality that helped drive mass pro-democracy protests in 2014. And the solution to improve the current degrading housing conditions for the low-income group seems nowhere to be in sight.

How blessed are we that in our country, with even the smallest roofs over our heads, we can live with human dignity.