An elderly woman died unnoticed in a 24-hour McDonald's in Kowloon Bay on Saturday, raising concerns about the need to help "McRefugees" who spend all night at the fast-food chain's branches because they have nowhere else to go.
Welfare groups yesterday urged the government to take immediate steps, such as imposing rent controls, and building homeless shelters and more public housing.
Meanwhile, the Social Welfare Department said it was "highly concerned" about the plight of street sleepers and that 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. 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.
McDonald's clarified that the woman had not ordered any food but staff noticed she was moving, and she had asked for water from the counter.
"To provide a pleasant dining environment, we would not disturb our customers, but our service will be offered promptly upon request," said Wendy Lam, senior director of corporate affairs for McDonald's Hong Kong.
Concern groups said the death was tragic, pointing out that some homeless people weren't unemployed - but because their salaries were so low, they would rather spend their money on food than rent.