2014-02-18    Why Simon steals from PARKnSHOP


Simon is not his real name, but his story is true. He has been in prison ten times for stealing chocolates, biscuits and other food items from PARKnSHOP, Wellcome, 7-Eleven and other stores. Each prison sentence has been for two months.

Simon came to Hong Kong from a South Asian country nine years ago. He says he fled his own land after being falsely accused of a crime that someone else did. He says the corrupt police force in that country will arrest him if he tries to return. The veracity of his story is a separate issue, although it can be noted that in Australia a high percentage of asylum seekers turn out to be genuine refugees.

As an asylum seeker in Hong Kong, Simon each month receives $1,200 government assistance to pay his rent. He also receives a regular amount of food from a government-supported agency. He is not allowed to work.

But the food allowance is minimal and his rent is more than $1,200 so he steals from shops to have more to eat and to sell stolen items to help pay his rent. Some of his friends get into more serious crime for the same reason: they need money for themselves and their families to live on.  Surely it's time for the Hong Government to allow such people to work legally and so reduce the crime rate in our society.