16th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest People
Weekend activity

This photo was taken at Sham Shui Po, the poorest and the densest district in Hong Kong. During the weekends this street is lined with hawkers who would sell second-hand items ranging from old clothing, toy, electronic to hardware. Sometimes, they would bring their children to work with them. As in the case of this kid who is always here during the weekends, often looking at a passer-by and entertaining himself. His smile and curious gaze highlight the innocents of a child. But as an observer, a haunting melancholia dominates the image. This is derived from the fact that his probability of breaking out of his social and economic suffering will, in the future, be even harder. That’s because Hong Kong suffers from what Bertrand Russell deems the breaking down of “the motive of individual profit”, where the free-market economic model, which dominates Hong Kong policy setting, is driving ever higher income inequality and worsening social mobility. This is physically manifested in the fact the “rich” rarely ventures into this district even though the richer districts are only a 10 to 15 minutes walk away. This is by no means a Hong Kong phenomenon, developed cities around the world are facing problems of the similar kind. Bertrand Russell said, “authorities like passivity because it is convenient”. Free-market principles have afforded a convenient way of dealing with socioeconomic issues. This child should be a reminder that radical political changes are needed to address the multitude of problems we face today.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 09.2018
Date Uploaded: 11.2018
Photo Location: Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong
Camera: X-T20
Copyright: © Philippe Li