McRefugees and the Homeless in Hong Kong: McDonald’s has a heart…

McRefugees is a relatively new word that refers to those who stay overnight in a 24-hour McDonald’s fast-food restaurant.


McRefugees in Shanghai find refuge in fast food joints / Boing Boing

14 August 2018

Number of people sleeping in Hong Kong McDonald’s branches skyrockets, as residents battle high rents and substandard housing

Study finds that, surprisingly, many who chose to spend their nights in branches of the fast-food chain have homes of their own

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 August, 2018, 9:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 4:00pm

The number of people sleeping in McDonald’s outlets has increased six-fold over the past five years, a trend partly driven by rising rents and substandard housing that makes life especially unbearable in the city’s baking weather, a study has found.

New International Version
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12

29 January 2018

Homeless in Hong Kong: soaring costs fuel housing crisis in Asian financial hub

HONG KONG: Cheung Muk-gun’s home is an illegal, wooden shack under a highway in one of the poorest areas of Hong Kong, where sky-high property prices and a yawning wealth gap have helped fuel a surge in homelessness.

Since Cheung became a street sleeper more than five years ago, Hong Kong’s homeless population has jumped about 30 percent to 1,800, according to the Society for Community Organisation (SocO), a non-governmental human rights group.

That compares with government data showing 1,075 registered street sleepers as of end-2017 and is double the 908 recorded in 2016. Government figures do not include so-called “McRefugees” who sleep in fast-food chains – whose numbers are significant but not officially counted – indicating homelessness is rapidly worsening in the Chinese territory of 7.3 million people.

A man sleeps inside a McDonald’s restaurant at midnight hours at Sham Shui Po district in Hong Kong, China January 23, 2018. Picture taken January 23, 2018. REUTERS


While the government provides shelters and subsidised housing for homeless people, critics say caps on the length of time they can stay only offer short-term relief.

SoCO social worker Ng Wai-tung estimates 25 percent of Hong Kong’s homeless population are McRefugees – people who call fast-food outlets home. He expects to see more in the summer when street sleepers seek air-conditioning to cool down.

Slouched in a corner of a 24-hour McDonald’s in Kowloon district, Wong Shek-hei, 65, said he earned HK$7,000 a month as a cleaner. He left a bed that cost about HK$1,500 a month more than three weeks ago, when bed bugs and disturbances from drug addicts drove him to the fast-food restaurant.

“In summer there are more than 20 people sleeping here,” he said.

Reuters visited four 24-hour McDonald’s, where it found on average six people bedding down of a night in each of the restaurants. Some lay stretched out with their shoes off, while others slept with their heads on tables.

“Since more than 120 McDonald’s restaurants are operating around the clock among our around 240 restaurants in Hong Kong, there could be chances that some customers stay in our restaurants overnight,” McDonald’s told Reuters.

“McDonald’s Hong Kong is accommodating to people (who) stay long in the restaurant for their own respective reasons.”

As the homeless population grows, rough-sleepers are appearing in areas they were rarely seen previously.

“The situation has definitely worsened in the past two years and we see Tsuen Wan as a new location for the homeless to gather,” said Olivia Chan, a social worker with Christian Concern for the Homeless Association, referring to a district on the mainland north of Mong Kok.

“More and more people are sleeping in fast-food shops now.”

One McRefugee surnamed Yeung, who has been sleeping at a McDonald’s branch for the past eight months, said the outlet was a safe haven for him.

“McDonald’s doesn’t approve of you sleeping here, but they turn a blind eye,” Yeung, who declined to use his full name due to concerns over job security, told Reuters.

“It’s a shelter from the rain, the heat, the cold and the bad.” –Reuters

22 November 2015

S’pore McRefugee finally returns home with son

S’porean mum who spent months in Hong Kong as a McRefugee finally returns home with only son.

Homeless no more: Singapore woman finally returns home with son

Embedded image permalink


I have been away for so long. I missed my son the most… Because he came looking for me, I feel better.

– Ms Mary Seow upon returning to Singapore

Thanks to readers of The New Paper, Singaporean Mary Seow was able to leave her harsh life in Hong Kong and return to Singapore with her son.

Arriving yesterday evening on a Jetstar Asia flight, with tickets sponsored by the airline, the 60-year-old smiled shyly as she emerged from the luggage collection area at Changi Airport’s Terminal 1.

With her was her only son, Mr Edward Goh, 28, who flew to Hong Kong on Friday morning for a surprise visit, with the help of several kind TNP readers.


Last night, Mr Goh brought his mother back to the HDB flat where he rents a room.

He had cleaned up the place and found an extra bed before leaving for Hong Kong, in the hope that she would return with him, he said.

He beamed widely as he helped his mother with her luggage.

Ms Seow said: “I have been away for so long. I missed my son the most.”

The future is uncertain for the duo as they have to try to sort out their living arrangements here.

– See more at:

21 November 2015

Hong Kong’s ‘McRefugees’ story helps reunite Singaporean woman, son

Embedded image permalink
Embedded image permalink
Embedded image permalink

HONG KONG — A Singaporean woman who went missing nearly five years ago has been reunited with her son after her plight was reported in an Associated Press story about people who sleep at 24-hour McDonald’s outlets in Hong Kong.

Ms Seow was just one of an untold number of homeless and working poor spending their nights at the 120 McDonald’s restaurants open round the clock in Hong Kong.

But her tale caught the attention of family members, the Singaporean government and concerned citizens, who worked swiftly to reunite the widow with her only son.

“I don’t expect that I’ll go back so fast. Until now I’m still, like, dreaming,” she said today (Nov 21) at Hong Kong’s airport as she was preparing to board a flight back to Singapore with her 28-year-old son, Edward Goh.

Seow had a surprise reunion the day before with her son, who had flown to Hong Kong to find her and bring her back home.

Mr Goh said ahead of his departure that he had “very strong and mixed” emotions, but added that there would be “no drama” and that they would “definitely not talk about the past”.

“I just want to bring her home,” he said. AP

Son surprises Singporean McRefugee mum with visit in Hong Kong
Embedded image permalinkTOGETHER AGAIN: Ms Mary Seow, 60, allowed herself a rare treat of snacks to celebrate her reunion with her only son, Mr Edward Goh, 28. TNP PHOTOS: 

By HOE PEI SHAN Reporting from Hong Kong

She turned the corner and stopped in her tracks.

Ms Mary Seow, 60, could not believe her eyes.

Her only son, whom she had last seen in person more than four years ago, was sitting on a bench just metres away.

He planned a surprise visit to Hong Kong with the help of several kind readers of The New Paper, which reported on Ms Seow’s struggles as a McRefugee and the challenges Mr Goh, a 28-year-old invoice processor earning $2,000 a month, faced in trying to get her back to Singapore.

Unlike their video call on Tuesday, when they saw each other and spoke for the first time in more than four years, there were no tears at their reunion yesterday.

A stunned Ms Seow took a moment to process the first sight of her son in person, then rolled up a piece of paper in her hand and swung it at him, as a beating for making the unexpected appearance.

Mr Goh played along, yelping and trying to dodge the blows, as smiles flashed across both their faces.

He had been worrying that his mother would refuse to meet him if she knew he was travelling to Hong Kong.

“I was shocked, not angry,” said Ms Seow afterwards.

“How can I be angry, he is doing this for my good.”


– See more at:

19 November 2015

Singapore McRefugee in HK speaks to son in emotional video call

TNP reunites S’porean McRefugee with son in emotional video call

Embedded image permalink

By HOE PEI SHAN Reporting from Hong Kong

Her hair was a wild mess of unfamiliar curls, her face lined and drawn with age.

But she was without a doubt his mother, whom he had last seen more than four years ago.

Mr Edward Goh could not stop crying as he took in the sight of his mother’s wrinkly, smiling face, beamed to Singapore from Hong Kong in a video call arranged by The New Paper on Wednesday (Nov 18).

It was their first face-to-face conversation since his mother, Ms Mary Seow, became uncontactable after abruptly selling their Singapore flat and going on business trips to China in 2011 at the persuasion of her church friend, a Chinese national she met in 2005.

After her Chinese investments fell through, Ms Seow, a single parent now aged 60, was found living as a ‘McRefugee’ in Hong Kong last week — welcome news to her 28-year-old son who had feared her kidnapped or dead.

– See more at:

17 November 2015

Mum, no need to be sorry: Man realises S’porean McRefugee is estranged mum

Mum, no need to be sorry: Man realises S’porean McRefugee is estranged mum

Embedded image permalinkLOST AND FOUND: Ms Mary Seow left for China more than four years ago.

Photo: Internet screengrab / Facebook

For years, her son had feared the worst. Had his missing mother been kidnapped? Murdered?

Ms Mary Seow had disappeared more than four years ago, abandoning her only child, Mr Edward Goh, then aged 24.

She had suddenly sold their home, a four-room flat in Boon Keng.

But after years of silence and a missing person’s police report, a surprise: Ms Seow has been living on the streets of Hong Kong as a “McRefugee”, Mr Goh learnt from news reports over the weekend.

An Associated Press report had mentioned the 60-year-old Ms Seow in a feature on McRefugees that appeared online on Friday.

The New Paper followed up with a confirmation by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Ms Seow had been located.

An emotional Mr Goh said over the phone yesterday: “I was like, okay, this is real, this is my mother – the age, the situation, the name, they fit what I know.

“I was relieved that she is alive but sad at the same time because of her situation.”

“I didn’t expect her to be homeless… You can abandon your family but make sure you abandon them for a better life, make sure you are living well.”

His mother was a single parent, and the two of them had lived with his maternal grandparents in the Boon Keng flat.

Ms Seow’s troubles began a decade ago, after she met a female Chinese national at Paya Lebar Methodist Church.

Mr Goh, who is now 28 and works as an invoice processor in the oil and gas industry, said the woman convinced his mother to marry a fellow Chinese national, whom she claimed to be her uncle.

Read the whole story here: 

– See more at:

Singaporean ‘McRefugee‘ in Hong Kong gets offer of assistance by MFA.

Embedded image permalink

McRefugee Singaporean mum homeless in HK after losing savings

Man realises S’porean McRefugee is estranged mum, wants to bring her back

An Associated Press report had mentioned the 60-year-old Ms Seow in a feature on McRefugees that appeared online on Friday.

The New Paper followed up with a confirmation by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Ms Seow had been located.

An emotional Mr Goh said over the phone yesterday: “I was like, okay, this is real, this is my mother – the age, the situation, the name, they fit what I know.

“I was relieved that she is alive but sad at the same time because of her situation.”

“I didn’t expect her to be homeless… You can abandon your family but make sure you abandon them for a better life, make sure you are living well.”

McRefugee Singaporean mum homeless in HK after losing savings

Embedded image permalink


McRefugees illustrate plight of Hong Kong’s homeless

Special Report: ST correspondent takes a look at the plight of ‘s homeless people

Social groups bemoan inadequate steps to help rising number of those who have fallen down on their luck

This is what the hard ground beneath Hong Kong’s social safety net looks like.

It is the stone bench in parks and under noisy flyovers.

It is the dusty floor of the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, a cardboard sheet in the shadows of the grand Peninsula Hotel.

It is the plastic chair of McDonald’s restaurants.

It was at the latter that a middle- aged woman was found dead earlier this month, slumped over a table. For seven hours, staff and customers at the outlet in Ping Shek Estate, Kowloon Bay, swirled around her body, clearing trays and eating burgers, before someone called the police.

It is believed that the unidentified woman was homeless and part of a wave of some 60 McRefugees who make their beds in the fast- food giant’s eateries. Since opening 24-hour outlets in Hong Kong a decade ago, McDonald’s has become a refuge for some of the city’s estimated 1,200 homeless.

But the picture in Hong Kong is particularly visible and bleak, especially when juxtaposed against the city’s ostentatious affluence.

For one, the number of homeless people is rising. Official statistics from the Social Welfare Department (SWD) indicate that there were 853 “registered street sleepers” as at end-August. This is up from 342 eight years ago, says Mr Ng Wai Tung of the Society for Community Organisation (Soco), a non-profit organisation that helps the needy.

Another disturbing trend is that Hong Kong’s homeless are not just the elderly and ill. The Straits Times visited various spots where they congregate and met people ranging in age from their 30s to 70s. Although many work, they say they still cannot afford homes.

Read more:

5 October 2015

Homeless woman found dead at Hong Kong McDonald’s 24 hours after she sat down, no one noticed

Embedded image permalink

Woman’s lonely death that went unnoticed for hours in Hong Kong McDonald’s sparks calls to help city’s homeless.

Save our McRefugees: Woman’s lonely death that went unnoticed for hours in Hong Kong McDonald’s sparks calls to help city’s homeless

Discovery of dead woman who spent 24 hours in fast-food restaurant highlights worsening plight of city’s homeless, say concern groups

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 October, 2015, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 October, 2015, 11:09pm

The lonely death of a homeless woman at a 24-hour McDonald’s outlet has put the spotlight on the need to help “McRefugees” who spend all night at the fast-food chain’s branches because they have nowhere else to go.

Concern groups yesterday urged the government to take immediate steps, such as imposing rent controls, building homeless shelters in the short term and building more public housing.

Meanwhile, the Social Welfare Department said it was “highly concerned” about the plight of street sleepers and help was available.

The dead woman, who had gone unnoticed by staff and customers, was found slumped over a table at 8.30am on Saturday – 24 hours after she entered the outlet at Ping Shek Estate in Kowloon Bay. It is believed she was a street sleeper who regularly spent nights in McDonald’s.

CCTV footage showed the woman, aged between 50 and 60, entering the restaurant at 8.39am on Friday. At 1.20am on Saturday, she suddenly slumped over the table. Nobody paid her any attention as customers ate their late-night meals around her.


31 May 2010


Shanghai’s McRefugees (translated) Part I

A few weeks ago, Guangzhou’s Southern Weekly had a very interesting feature on the McRefugees – people who, due to low pay or homelessness, spend their nights at 24-hour fast food restaurants – living in Shanghai’s Xujiahui area. They were thrown into the spotlight in March, when one man stabbed a McDonalds employee who tried to kick him out.

It’s 4am, 18-year-old Sun Long (psuedonym) sleepily walks out of an internet cafe, where he has been residing for the past 15 hours.

The internet cafe is inside his workplace, Metro City (美罗城)in Xujiahui. Sun Long knows these roads like the back of his hand, crossing the street will get him to Tianyaoqiao Lu; there’s a McDonalds 24-hour store there. He plans to buy two burgers to ease his hunger, and then walk 200m to a 24-hour KFC to rest until daylight. Compared to the McDonalds, that place has leather seats and is more comfortable to sleep in.

While ordering, Sun Long hears someone yelling: “Get up! You can’t lie sleeping here!” In the quiet of the deep night, this phrase makes Sun Long turn around. He sees a middle-aged man’s body lying on a row of round swivel chairs. A younger store employee asks him to sit up. Right now, it’s time for McDonalds’ breakfast preparations. This scene, in the eyes of someone who makes his home in fast food restaurants like Sun Long, couldn’t be any more familiar.

But, just as he was chomping down on one of his burgers, the man who was woken from his dream began to quarrel with the young employee. The two began yelling about “going outside to fight,” and began pushing and shoving. What happened next Sun Long could hardly believe: the middle-aged man pulled a knife out of his bag and stabbed it into the employee. The stabbed employee fell to the ground. The man went back to his seat, grabbed his black bag, threw the knife in and ran out the door. Sun Long, scared to death, hid in the bathroom and called the police.

The day was March 19, 2010. In the afternoon, Shanghai’s Xinmin Evening News and other media reported the murder. According to their reports, the murdered McDonalds employee was called Li Feng, born in 1987, from Shanghai’s Jingshan District. This was a hardworking and talented young person, after graduating from college, he worked part-time as an McDonalds employee from 10pm to 6am to help with family expenses.

In safe and lawful Shanghai, this kind of murder is a big event. On Shanghai forum KDS (宽带山),Shanghainese’s harsh words towards YP (外来人口 Outsiders) became explosive.



McRefugees’ in Hong Kong? –

USA Today

‘McRefugees’ in Hong Kong?
Updated 5/1/2007 8:00 AM
HONG KONG (AP) — No longer just a restaurant for people to munch a burger, McDonald’s in Hong Kong has recently become a shelter for some down on their luck, a local paper reported this week.

People who cannot afford high rents or who want to save a few dollars on late-night transportation have opted to sleep in some of the fast food restaurants which operate around the clock, the mass-market Apple Daily said Monday.

A picture taken by the newspaper at 4 a.m. in a downtown McDonald’s in Tsim Sha Tsui, a popular tourist district, showed at least eight men resting on their arms and occupying a table each.

The paper called these people “McRefugees” — a term imported from Japan, where a growing number of working poor have been spending the night at McDonald’s.

A man the paper identified only by his surname, Lo, was among some 10 people sleeping recently in one of the McDonald’s in Hong Kong.

“I had lost my job for about a month. I have no money to pay my rent, so I come here to sleep,” the man in his 30s was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

“It has air conditioning here. It’s better than sleeping in parks.”

The man added he would rent a place as soon as he got paid for the job he started a few weeks ago, the paper said.

A woman, whose name was not given, said she was sleeping at McDonald’s to save a few dollars on transportation.

“I’m a nightshift waitress. I finish work at 2 a.m. I sleep here until dawn when the train resumes services,” she told the paper, referring to Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway which runs its last train shortly after midnight on weekdays.

McDonald’s said customers are welcome to visit the restaurants anytime and that they “haven’t received any complaints regarding customers staying in the restaurants for a long time,” it said in a written reply to The Associated Press.

This entry was posted in homeless, homeless in Hong Kong, McDonald's, McRefugees and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s