ISS does not determine aid levels, she adds, as the agency is funded directly by the government and only carries out government instructions.
Officials stand behind the austere policy, which they say is designed to keep its welfare system from getting overloaded with outsiders. "The objective of humanitarian assistance is to provide support, which is considered sufficient to prevent a person from becoming destitute while at the same time not creating a magnet effect," Hong Kong's Social Welfare Department wrote in a statement emailed to CNN.
Salim has a simpler explanation: "The Hong Kong government doesn't care. To them, we are not people."
'Like finding out heaven is fake'
Claimants who persist long enough to receive a status determination are often devastated to find they have been rejected without explanation.
According to Vision First, Hong Kong has received over 12,000 torture claims in the last 21 years -- and has accepted five. "This number is unbelievable," says Beatson. "It's an effective zero percent recognition rate."
For those in Ping Che waiting to be screened, these figures cause despair.
"It's a tunnel with no light at the end," says Beatson. "When it dawns on refugees what they're stuck in, they're in shock. They conclude that Hong Kong is safe, but they would've rather died. It's like finding out that heaven is fake."
To alleviate refugees' suffering, a small group of Hong Kong NGOs has formed what it calls the Refugee Concern Network to try and coordinate help.
One of its members is Julee Allen, who manages a refugee aid center in Hong Kong's Chungking Mansions. The center provides psycho-social support for more than 300 clients. But the work, she says, is very difficult.
In her first month on the job, a man suddenly broke down into tears. "He pulled up his shirt and showed me stab wounds all over his torso and started explaining what has happened in his country.
"When he left and shut the door behind him, I lost it. I spent 30 minutes crying, just saying, 'My God, how can we help someone who has been so deeply, deeply wounded?'"
Beatson says that the aid organizations simply cannot help everyone.
"All the charities combined only have about three million HKD (US$128,926). We need hundreds of millions," he says. "Our work might help five hundred people a little, but how do you help 6,000?
"We have to put pressure on the government," he adds.
Hong Kong legislator Fernando Cheung is one of the few politicians trying to help. He first visited Ping Che in February and describes the sight as "shameful."
Cheung immediately demanded a special meeting with the Hong Kong Security Bureau to voice his concerns, but was rejected. "They are trying to evade the problem," he says.
Unsatisfied, Cheung believes that government inaction jeopardizes Hong Kong's international reputation. "The government wants to project Hong Kong as a world-class city with advanced systems. They want investment.
"But the city is in many ways a façade," he says. "On the outside, it's got nice decorations. But if you look inside, it's empty -- there's no heart."
There has been minor progress. Late last year, court rulings determined that Hong Kong's refugee screening systems were incomplete. In June, the government announced a new system, which will screen not just torture claimants but all sufferers of persecution and cruel treatment. "It's a step in the right direction," says Cheung.
But there are no improvements planned for refugee welfare -- which is the most urgently needed reform. A provision allowing refugees to seek employment would raise living conditions immeasurably, but this seems a remote possibility at best. If things don't improve soon, Hong Kong's treatment of refugees will continue to fall short of the international standards it claims to embrace, and Ping Che will continue to wither.
Advocates say change is possible but only if people understand what the refugees are going through.
"Being an asylum seeker, refugee, or torture claimant is not a choice people make," says Allen. "Some seismic event has just turned that person's life upside down. If they could just go home and be safe, they would -- but they can't. It's important to remember it could be you -- it could be me -- it could happen any second."
As for Salim, all he wants is an opportunity for dignity.
"In the United States, Canada, Australia, they give people a chance," he says. "It is 2013. We should give a chance to everyone."