Illegal ‘coffin cubicles’ see people crammed into tiny flats like battery hens

The bright lights of Hong Kong hide a grim secret as behind ultra-modern skyscrapers and neon-lit shopping streets, some 200,000 people live in tiny cramped “coffin” apartments that can be less than 15 feet across.

As many as 40,000 children are among the people crammed into coffin cubicles which aren’t even big enough to stand up in.

These people are Hong Kong’s poorest citizens, scraping a living on minimum wage in a city where spiralling living costs have left them with no alternative but to pay $2,000HK (£200) a month in rent for the sub-divided flats.

Photographer Benny Lam has chronicled their lives in a bid to expose the grim living conditions.

“You may wonder why we should care, as these people are not a part of our lives,” Lam wrote on Facebook.

“They are exactly the people who come into your life every single day: they are serving you as the waiters in the restaurants where you eat, they are the security guards in the shopping malls you wander around, or the cleaners and the delivery men on the streets you pass through. The only difference between us and them is [their homes]. This is a question of human dignity.”

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The coffin cubicles are usually built inside larger flats by unscrupulous owners, with a 400-foot-square apartment subdivided into 20 separate dwellings.

“From cooking to sleeping, all activities take place in these tiny spaces,” says Lam.

His photo series, which is called “Trapped,” is a bid to reveal the dark side of Hong Kong’s ultra-capitalism. He says that by making the tenants and their homes visible, he hopes more people will start paying attention to Hong Kong’s social injustice.

“Living like that should never be normal,” he says, recalling one occasion when he “came home and cried” after photographing some of these people living in wire “cages”.

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