Q: In paragraph , what does the phrase “urban ticking time bomb” mean, and how does the author use it to inform her audience?
A: The author uses the phrase “urban ticking time bomb” to describe the urgently dangerous condition of Hong Kong’s subdivided flats, and how they might just be an accident in waiting. The author uses “time bomb” to paint a picture of the danger in the reader’s head.
Q: In paragraphs  and , how does the author use the quotes to illustrate the problem of subdivided housing? What does the word substandard mean?
A: The author used quotes from a professor, Professor Chau Kwong-wing, and a tenant, Cheung Chi-kuen, to further explain the problem. Professor Chau is an expert on housing and property in Hong Kong, while Cheung has lived in a subdivided flat before, and can talk about his firsthand experience. In this case, “substandard” means under the standard.
Q: How did the fire in Cheung’s flat start? In paragraph , what in the stairway was discovered to have been unchanged for many years?
A: Cheung’s neighbour fell asleep smoking in bed, so all four subdivided flats were filled with smoke. The fire extinguisher was left unchanged.
Q: What are some of the reasons the article gives about why subdivided flats are so dangerous and what are some other safety hazards?
A: Such flats lack fire alarms, as well as fire extinguishers or hoses. Additionally, such flats are structurally unsafe, because the walls that subdivide each apartment add additional weight onto each floor. Furthermore, in such dense spaces, diseases are easily spread.
Q: What are some ways the government could possibly reduce the number of subdivided flats in Hong Kong?
A: The government has investigated possibilities to build more housing, some on reclaimed land. Other strategies have included taxing owners of empty properties.