Tom talks about his experiences in Hong Kong: his struggles, his fears and his hopes.
Tom* has lived in Hong Kong for twenty years, moving here at 31 years old. He met his wife, a Filipina, during this time, and they now share four children (16, 10, 8, 5 years old respectively). While Tom used to work in construction back home, he has not been able to work at all in Hong Kong. Under the city’s law, refugees are banned from working, though many choose to pursue illegal jobs in secret. However, in response to this, Tom said: “I cannot pursue illegal work, I do not dare - what will happen to my wife and children?” But without employment, living in limbo has taken a toll on him: “My life is
empty,” he tells me, “Twenty years. I’m wasting my time here in Hong Kong. I only bring my children to school and back, nothing else to do.” There are tears in his eyes as he speak.
"I had no cash in my pocket so we had to walk away. I will never forget the look of disappointment in my son's eyes."
When asked what the most difficult aspect of refugee life was, Tom sighs: “Life is hard here because everything is so expensive.” Just recently, his youngest daughter’s school decided to change their uniforms. However, he could not afford the new uniform and had to ask the school if they could delay the payment until next month. Luckily, the school was able to let Tom’s daughter stay in school, but Tom frets over where to find the money for the fees. Refugees live on a scant $3200 monthly from the government, often finding themselves
lacking sufficient disposable income. Parents, like Tom, are under enormous pressure to provide for their children in the notoriously expensive city of Hong Kong. "My son saw ice creams in a store and wanted to eat one. I had no cash in my pocket so we had to walk away. I will never forget the look of disappointment in my son's eyes." Tom describes not being able to fulfil his children's needs as a feeling that "eats away" at him.
"I only hope that my children will not lead the life I have led," said Tom, "I pray to God every night that my children can live happily. That is all I request."
*Name has been changed