HONG KONG : Despite mainland China's remarkable economic progress, immigrants from across the border continue to seek their fortune in Hong Kong in large numbers each year.
Channel NewsAsia takes a first-hand look at how one mainland immigrant family is adjusting to their new life in the city.
One of Asia's wealthiest cities, Hong Kong has long attracted large numbers of skilled workers from all over the world.
Since Hong Kong's handover, the city has also seen an annual influx of some 55,000 immigrants from mainland China.
The mainlanders settle here with their families under the One-Way Permit Scheme.
But not all have found their place in the sun; some are finding it tough adjusting to their new life.
Mrs Chow and her children are from Kaiping city in Guangdong province.
Her family of four came here at the start of the year in search of a brighter future.
Home is now a 3.7 square meter cubicle, smaller than the average Mercedes Benz.
Their former house in Southern China was 25 times bigger.
Mr Chow is a construction worker who earns US$600 a month, a quarter of which is used to pay the rent.
His wife desperately wants a job to supplement the family income, but with no skills and little education, she hasn't managed to find work.
For the Chows, mealtime is usually a simple one-dish affair, like tofu today.
Mrs Chow said, "We can't make ends meet. If any of us has influenza and has see a private doctor, the cheapest treatment costs HK$150 to HK$160. We must stay healthy."
To the Chows, luxury is a colour television, and great sacrifices had to be made to get the children a personal computer.
The cramped conditions have taken their toll.
Said an emotional Mrs Chow, "I'm easily depressed as I'm anxious being among so many strangers. I also get moody easily and when my children misbehave, sometimes I beat them."
Eight families live on the same floor, sharing a common kitchen.
An area with a small basin serves as a makeshift bathroom, and next to it is a run-down communal toilet.
Social worker Sze Lai-shan has been helping immigrant families find suitable public housing, but regulations state that newcomers can only apply for public flats after living here for seven years.
Said Ms Sze, of the Society for Community Organisation, "For some of them, even if they're out of the cubicle and they're re-housed in public housing, they still have no improvement to their income."
The Chow family's experience is not uncommon.
For many other low-income immigrants not fluent in the local Cantonese language, discrimination can be an added difficulty, caused partly by a fear that low-income immigrants pose a burden to society.
However, all this does not appear to have deterred the thousands of mainland residents who choose to settle in Hong Kong every year.
Chow Chi Leung says he and his 11-year-old sister are enjoying school.
The nine-year-old has commendable ambitions and dreams for the future.
He said, "I wish to be a policeman because I want to help to catch the bad guys. I also want to earn more money to treat my mother to a holiday."
It is filial sentiments like this that perhaps makes it worth the initial sacrifices for many mainland immigrants to Hong Kong. - CNA
(Source: By Channel NewsAsia's Hong Kong Correspondent Roland Lim, MCN International Pte Ltd)