The Story about Lan

A mother and a son, alias Ah Lan and Him Him, are living in comfort in a 100-sq-ft subdivided flat in a tenement building in Sham Shui Po. Same as many other tenants of subdivided flats, Ah Lan is facing the skyrocketing rent with an unpleasant living environment. She is pleased with it though, reckoning that this is the best choice among others. “I’ve already been better off than others,” smiles Ah Nan, comforting herself in tiny space, but the rent worries her. “It hits more than 3,000 dollars. I hope it won’t go up further.”

Petite and a bit suntanned, Ah Lan immigrated to Hong Kong from mainland China 7 to 8 years ago, living in her relative’s public housing flat with her husband. She used to live a comfortable life as her husband had a stable job. Sadly, her husband passed away a few years ago, and her family lost the major financial pillar to sustain their living. Ah Lan had to move away from her family and move out of the public housing to another place. To take care of her toddler, Ah Lan struggled to survive with the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA).

Unsheltered from the public housing flat, Ah Lan sub-rented a flat in a few hundred square feet with a few strangers. Fights about everything were common among those sub-tenants, so Ah Lan had no way but to move away again for her son’s sake. “I’m happy to live here,” repeats Ah Nan. At least she can live peacefully and quietly with her son in this flat.

Tiny but neat, Ah Lan’s little universe is fitted with a double bed and a desk. In the past, she had to hand wash clothes, but thankfully her friend sent her a washing machine as a gift. The flat is too small to fit in the machine and its drain hose, so she has to move it every time she washes the clothes.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, low-income families can enjoy some subsidies from the Electricity Charges Subsidy Scheme from the Hong Kong Government, but Ah Lan is an exception. “We have agreed to pay for every unit of electricity consumption in our contract with the landlord, so we have been paying for it since the pandemic.” Much exploited in life, Ah Lan never grumbles. What worries her most is her son: He cannot hang around outside but only play computer games at home.

“When he’s grown up and can take care of himself, I will return to the mainland,” says Ah Nan, glancing at his son from time to time, who’s standing beside her, listening to her carefully. Living in this alien yet familiar city like Hong Kong, the mother and son are serving guardian angels to protect each other.