Overheard on CNN.com: Hong Kong's cage homes sadden some readers
Photographer Brian Cassey captured photos in 2009 showing the lifestyle of those living in Hong Kong's cage homes.
January 10th, 2012
06:28 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Hong Kong's cage homes sadden some readers

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

"That's the amazing thing about suffering. The 99% and Tea Party in the U.S. with their technological excess and luxuruiously wasteful American way of life are protesting their economic hardships in the street, while these people are living in cages and working through it."

In Hong Kong, some people live in housing that is basically a cage. This situation has garnered a huge outpouring of response from the global community, and the CNN Photos blog's gallery about the cages really touched a lot of readers. Some were saddened by the 2009 photos, while others wrote in to share their observations about such kinds of housing.

Hong Kong's poor living in cages

People wrote in to talk not just about how the photos affected them but to about how their situations stack up.

George Colacicco: "This morning I woke up in my three bedroom, two bath home with 1624 square feet on a 5500 square foot lot on the ground floor, and found people living in cages half a world away. I am praying to God for the life he has given me."

Many readers found parallels in the struggling economy of the United States.

Colleen: "This is so very sad, but look hard because this is our future. With growing populations, and rampant misuse of our resources and finances we will undoubtedly see this kind of 'housing' situation worldwide. I hope I am wrong."

But some said conditions may even be better than what many are currently getting.

Charles: "Densely packed? Yes. But they have electricity, air conditioning, basic shelter and food. In other words, they are better off than 15% of all Americans and 45% of all Africans. Do something: Volunteer."

Beats being homeless.

Mom of Three: "Make no mistake, I would not want anyone to have to live like this, but it's better than here. At least with these cage rooms, they can keep their things safe, in one place, while they work. They are protected, unlike our homeless, from the elements. No, they're not pretty, but I see that they have tried to personalize them with photos of loved ones, etc. I would rather live here than on the streets in the US or under a freeway overpass. At least you can lock yourself in at night."

The cages might be a great deal, to boot, one said.

charlie in texas: "What accomodations does $200 per month rent get you in a major US/European city?"

There were a few who wrote in to say they wished basic survival needs could be provided for all people.

John: "Putting all politics and personal biases aside; it's a shame that we as one species of life on Earth can't do something to ensure that everyone can live a life where they can have access to the basic necessities of life while doing something to pursue their dreams and goals."

For $400 a month, this reader is living in a one-bedroom apartment. He says the low-cost cages are still decent.

Johnny Y: "$200 bucks a month is no chump change. For comparison, I pay $400 a month in rent in Pittsburgh PA for a one bedroom with kitchen/bathroom etc, so these guys are not exactly living in squalid conditions, its just the relality of the housing situation in HK. I think these setups are pretty smart, after all you just need a place to sleep and keep your stuff when your not working, the rest of your time can be spent in the city or whatever, great for younger folks who want to visit or work in the city and keep expenses down, kinda wish I can get this short of setup in NYC. Yeah, it looks run down, but gets the job done, and thats what efficient people want. I'd much rather live in one of these things, in a bustling diverse city with things to do, great food, etc, save money, than live in some cheap mansion in the gloomy wasteland that is Middle America."

One commenter said that without the cages, the system is basically rented beds.

oldengr: "In the 1960s, I remember 'bed spaces' (both levels of bunk beds) being rented out and it was not as rare or new as you might think. Rent was not cheap back then either. The only difference now is the fencing surrounding each 'bed space'; back then, people respected your privacy and would not touch your belongings which were stored on shelves above the bed."

Another wondered why cages were necessary.

omac: "What's the point of the cages? Why not bunk beds? Seems like it would be a lot cheaper. If you can't trust your bunkmates to not steal your stuff (assuming that security is the reason for the cages) then how can you trust them to not padlock you inside when you are sleeping?"

Some readers were astounded at the response this story got.

SophieCW: "A lot of time, it would do us good to just look at photos like these and let our heart go out to what we see - just empathize, sympathise and have compassion. No need to bring in debates about politics, comparisons about who is doing worse, whose fault it is, etc. Just shut up, get off your opinionated high horse and maybe use these stories to act on helping those near you in similar situations. There will be poor, disadvantaged, overlooked and forgotten people everywhere."

One reader said their own family had experienced this kind of lifestyle.

Mingalo: "Nothing new about this. Family was in Hong Kong 40+ years ago renting a 10'X10' room for a family of 7. Heard and knew about places exactly like this - it was called a pigeon coop. Pretty common then and should not be hard to find nowadays, especially among old buildings."

Cages can be found in other places, this commenter said.

indian: "Dubai is also very similar . There are many cages like this."

There was a commenter who said they were familiar with this kind of housing, and it's not as bad as it seems.

Travelchic: "Our standards do not allow us to understand certain lifestyles and conditions that people deem normal. Yes, this is sad and depressing to us. But the truth is I have friends who have these exact same apartments who are not poor! These are standard apartments in Honk Kong. These people choose to furnish them this way and with the exception of the dirtiness, its not a bad idea. For one these may not be their main residence. Obviously they are shacking up several in one apt. They probably work in down town and choose to keep a place during their work time and share space. Also the "cages" allow for sturdy structures that serve as furniture and storage while still allowing light into the space. Which believe me can become very dark when you put in Armoirs and Beds and Couches etc. Apartments are rented out by the square footage and to have built in closets limits the actual footage they can claim. And come on people! They use the locks to safe guard their belongings while they are out. A) if they are randomly rooming with coworkers for economic advantages, they probably don't know them that well. B) There is probably a high turnover. The fact that they choose not to keep it clean its their option."

What do you think about this story and about the cages? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Hong Kong • Overheard on CNN.com • World
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. 8th grade Student in hong kong

    My name is sammi, I currently live in hong kong, I would like to thank you for writing about this because this is a very important subject. We are very selfish in the world and care a lot about our self. Ya some people make mistakes to end up there, But as a Christian i believe our god is a forgiving god and we should forgive to. So I have decided to do something about it. I first need to do some reacher. Does any one know where the address are of any of these people. I know I only in 8th grade but I feel I need to help.
    Thank you

    April 18, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Byron

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    April 25, 2012 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
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