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sun 發表於 2016-5-23 14:18

City of Darkness Revisited

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Home to 40,000 people at its height, Kowloon Walled City was by far the most densely populated place on earth. On a site measuring roughly 200 by 100 metres were squeezed some 350 buildings, rising 14 storeys or more and so tightly packed there was rarely space between them. Every available nook and cranny was inhabited, while the connecting alleys, stairways and corridors were reduced to an absolute minimum. Find out here how the City came about and how it continued to operate so successfully for so long.

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                                                                                     CITY OF IMAGINATION                                            [url=][img=512,340][/img][/url]

Video footage of the Walled City was in very short supply while it existed. The internet, of course, was still in its infancy in those days, so there was no ready outlet for such imagery and photographing there, in the gloom and under multiple different light sources, was difficult. RTHK, the local television station, made a short documentary after the clearance was announced, but the only serious record from that time was made by an Austrian television company, whose hour-long documentary can now been found on YouTube. It is dark and grainy, but is perhaps the best record of what the City was like during the last few years of its existence.
Since then, especially in recent years, interest in the City has grown immeasurably and many people have revisited the subject to add their own slant on what the City means for them. Among the most recent is a short history of the City made by MNA News Direct, which though slight in its information incorporates some interesting graphics and animation It can be viewed via the link here.

Far more interesting is a short study of the City’s architectural merits produced by a tutor and four architectural students at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, which can be found on Vimeo under the rather unwieldy title of ‘Winter 2013. Waterloo Arch. 392 Urban Practice 16 – Kowloon Walled City’. Just type Kowloon Walled City into Vimeo’s search box and it will pop up.
By far the best contemporary documentary, however, appeared in the autumn of 2014 as produced by the Asian Walled Street Journal for its online TV network. Titled ‘City of Imagination’, this draws in part on the work Greg Girard and I undertook for City of Darkness Revisited – our photographs and research – and for our sins we even appear in it briefly. But to their credit, the film’s producers Lara Day and Diana Jou tracked down several contacts of their own, whose personal testimony is truly eye-opening and, for anyone interested in the Walled City, makes the documentary required viewing. Watch it here.

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                                                                                     POWER FOR ALL                                            [url=][img=512,392][/img][/url]Relatively well kept meters on the ground floor entrance to one of the smarter apartment blocks.

Just as it was feared a universal supply of safe drinking water to the City’s residents would confer some sort of legitimacy on the Walled City as a whole, so it was with the installation of a safe and reliable electrical supply. The Government decided to supply water through a strictly limited number of standpipes, which while undoubtedly inconvenient was relatively safe. The same solution, however, would not work with electricity.
The danger of not providing electricity to those who needed or wanted it had been brought home to the Hong Kong Government following a huge fire at the Shek Kip Mei ‘squatter’ settlement (in reality refugees from China) on Christmas Day 1953, which left over 50,000 people homeless. Up until that time, electricity had not been supplied to such settlements, forcing their inhabitants to rely on Kerosene lamps and stoves for lighting and cooking. This could not be allowed to continue and over the next few years China Light and Power gradually installed a permanent supply to all Hong Kong residents, regardless of status and location – including the Walled City.
Even then, the supply to the Walled City remained far less than demand required. A Government memo of January 1964 noted that: “inside the Kowloon Walled City there were many unauthorised extensions of the Company’s electricity supply. The cables were very seriously overloaded. The fire risk was high; the Company’s emergency vehicle was out every night in the area patching up the system.”

[url=][img=512,731][/img][/url]The 1964 memo discussing the City’s electrical supply.

Somewhat grudgingly China Light and Power was allowed greater access, but an increased supply only engendered greater demand, leaving the Company forever struggling to keep up. In fairness, this situation applied to Hong Kong as a whole during a decade of dramatic growth, but the situation was especially acute in the Walled City and it was only in the mid 1970s that the Company decided to initiate a complete overhaul of the City’s supply.
Mok Chung Yuk was one of the company’s engineers responsible and here below are his recollections of the situation when he started working in the City in 1977. Unsurprisingly, these are not always entirely accurate, particularly with regard overall policy, but they do provide an excellent description of the practical problems of installing and maintaining a relatively safe and reliable electrical service throughout the City at that time.

“Following a big fire in the City in 1977, everyone realised things had to change. We began drafting a plan to supply electricity throughout the City and the Government established guidelines as to which buildings were acceptable. The years 1977 to ’85 were years of drastic transformation. The local District Office began to collaborate with the Kai Fong, and Government involvement in the City also increased. Later, just before the Sino-British Agreement was signed, China told the British that they could exercise full authority over the City and things became much easier.
I was one of those doing the groundwork for the new electricity supply – I carried out the very first surveys. In fact, I remember well the first time I went in – edging in a short way then turning back! It seemed very frightening at the time. We all dressed down at first, and we were careful not to enter looking like an official team. Only when we were familiar with the streets and alleys did we bring out our maps and plans. For the first few days, before we got talking to any of the locals, we just got used to the place.
We had two big worries in those early months. First, we had no idea what we would find and, second, when we found out how bad it was, we had no idea how to cope with the chaos. We quickly saw the difficulties: the narrow alleys, the filth, the rubbish, the character of the people living and working there. A few of my colleagues were robbed, possibly by drug addicts; they would even take $30. We were never really hassled by thugs though, since so many Government departments were involved in the project, including the police. And so was the Kai Fong, of course. Also, the majority of residents saw the need for electricity, so nothing unruly took place.
There were many specific technical problems. The City was just a maze of pipes and wires all over the place. We were at a loss where to begin! Eventually we decided that we’d just have to make a start from the outside and work in – take the cable and enter inch by inch. The alleys were incredibly narrow, and in places we needed to dig up the ground to lay the cable. But when we were digging we’d often strike rock or stone and have to stop. After several meetings in the City, we agreed to raise the level of the pavement instead!
We had to invent many new ways of installing cables. We’d try one way first and if that worked we’d use it again. Occasionally there’d be problems, of course. People didn’t like us fixing cables to their walls, for example, and it took some persuasion before such matters were resolved. Sometimes the wiring had to go through someone else’s premises and, of course, some saw this as an invasion.  In these cases, we just had to let the applicant negotiate with the owner. Actually, in a few instances, we just supplied electricity to the power points on a lower floor and let the owner connect it to the floor above. You know what the buildings are like in the Walled City – they’re built one on top of the other, leaning here and there. In some cases, there was no way to make the necessary connections all the way up to the top floors. Of course, we’d check everything was done properly before switching on.
Hong Kong’s economy was growing fast at that time, and as everyone became better off they bought more and more electrical goods. The population was increasing fast as well. The Walled City itself was booming, with a huge amount of new construction going on. All these things contributed to an increased demand for electricity.
With more and more people in the City wanting electricity, we had to find space for the transformer we needed to cope with two high-density cables we were planning to bring in. We finally managed to persuade the church in the City to rent us around 250 square feet on condition we renovated their school. We also kept badgering the Government to release space cleared because of fires so we could build a couple more sub-stations. We discussed this with the authorities for several years, in fact, until they eventually gave us permission in 1984. It took us three years to set up the stations, by which time they had announced they were going to tear the place down!
By this time almost every flat had electricity. But that didn’t take care of all the factories. When we started out we had no idea there’d be so many. We had made provision in our plans for some excess supply, but we’d underestimated the demand – we’d often have to make spur-of-the-moment adjustments and modifications to meet requirements as we found them.
There are, of course, instances of electricity theft. Certainly, the total supply of electricity is not fully paid up or accounted for. But it’s no longer easy to steal from the Company on a large scale. When they see us, factory owners using stolen electricity are careful to hide any evidence that might give cause for suspicion. Many also realise that stolen electricity might not be that much cheaper. At least when they get their supply direct from the Company, they are never threatened or subject to extortion.
In the past, those who stole were not dealt with very effectively. This is partly because our employees didn’t dare go too far into the City! But even if action was taken, we’d usually have to bring the police in – and they did not have much authority in the place themselves. Some people claimed they had their own private power sources, which just wasn’t true! They stole from China Electric but were only rarely brought to account. If they were discovered, they’d just be disconnected.
Bringing electricity to the City was not just a unique project for Hong Kong, but pretty much anywhere I’d say. Because of the background of the place, and the conditions and environment there, we were forced to make many innovations and to problem-solve. I myself feel happy, however, that people are finally moving out, although I feel that the Government is spending far too much on compensation. When the clearance was announced, I’m sure many people moved in quickly enough to spend a couple of nights in the City, in the hope that they could benefit too.”

[url=][img=512,392][/img][/url]The mass of wiring around the meters made illegal extensions difficult to detect.

[url=][img=512,669][/img][/url]A typical array of meters the entrance to one of the City’s smaller buildings.

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                                                                                     WATER FIT TO DRINK                                            [url=][img=512,391][/img][/url]The stand-pipe on Tai Chang Street, for most residents the only source of clean drinking water in the City

Like much else in the Walled City, the provision of a reliable water supply was the source of considerable inventiveness and entrepreneurial skill, not all of it healthy. The Government’s long-standing refusal to connect individual buildings, apartments and factories into the external mains system, and thereby legalise water supplies, meant the City’s residents and businesses had to resort to paying private suppliers, to pump water from wells sunk beneath the City, or local Triad groups for water tapped illegally from nearby mains supplies.
The only concession the authorities made over the years was to install a few public freshwater stand-pipes, though these were barely enough. By 1987, just eight stand-pipes were in place to supply up to 35,000 residents and hundreds of factories. Only one of these was located within the City, while the remainder were positioned, inconveniently, outside its perimeter. Running mains water was supplied to various recognised charities inside the Walled City, but this was very much the exception not the rule.
The first stand-pipe was installed in 1963 giving the city, in the words of a Government statement at the time “access to a free, unrestricted water supply”. Residents had a somewhat different perception. Representatives of the newly formed Kai Fong Association, calling on the Secretariat for Chinese Affairs in 1964, complained of the acute shortage of water at a time when “the Chinese Government is working selflessly on the East River scheme to provide ample water for Hong Kong residents”. Their complaints were well grounded, if dressed in rhetoric. Four emergency hydrants had been removed following the end of the drought that year, leaving just five stand-pipes. Residents were paying $12 – 15 a month for labourers to carry six kerosene cans of water each day from the stand-pipes to their flats in the jumble of then mostly two- three- and four-storey buildings.

[url=][img=512,413][/img][/url]A traditional well outside the walls of the City in 1950

[url=][img=512,684][/img][/url]One of the last traditional wells in the City in 1988 – a sign nearby made it clear the water was not for drinking

[url=][img=512,646][/img][/url]A private water supplier shows off the pump to his ‘scientific’  well, drawing water up from the ground to a supply tank on the roof

The business of carrying water for entire households became increasingly difficult the more the City grew skywards, during the boom days of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Rapidly expanding demand, notably from new and thirsty factories, and the impracticality of trudging six or more storeys to individual apartments drove entrepreneurs underground to tap new sources. The new well diggers were mainly property owners who were able to drill on their own land; some were reputedly former water-carriers themselves.
There had been wells in the City in its earlier days. One former resident recalls water being collected from a couple of wells at the northern and eastern gates immediately after the War. By the time the clearance was announced in 1987, Government surveyors assessing compensation claims identified 67 working wells owned by some 40 suppliers. Over the years, up to 300 ‘scientific wells’  – as they are described by City-dwellers – are said to have been sunk beneath the area, though many had long run dry from overuse. The more recent drillings had to reach as far as 100 metres below the surface, as shallower sources had been depleted. Private drilling firms were contracted to carry out the work.
Physically transferring the water to residences was usually a crude, makeshift process. Water was first pumped up to rudimentary storage tanks on the City roofscape. From there, a twisted congestion of pipes ran downward again, branching into blocks and flats. Installation of a well-water link could cost as much as several thousand dollars, depending on the height above and the distance from the well. By the late 1980s, monthly charges were anywhere between $50 and $70 per household.
Despite reports of numerous people being unable to afford the steep connection fees, the majority of City residents appear to have been linked up to receive well-water. A simple connection in itself, however, did not guarantee the end to one’s water problems.
Pressure and pumping difficulties meant that many pumps would only be turned on at set times – usually noon and midnight – to replenish the tanks. This would only give a few hours’ supply, and it meant that residents still had to store water in baths and buckets. About 20 people were employed to control the supply at various locations according to the well-owner’s schedule.

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]A housewife fills a couple of plastic bottles to carry back to her apartment

[url=][img=512,335][/img][/url]Professional water carriers were at work in the City until the very end

[url=][img=512,661][/img][/url]A single tap on the wall provides water from a private suppliers tank on the roof that, at best was suitable for washing and flushing the lavatory

Perhaps the biggest drawback with the well-water, though, was that much of it was undrinkable. Pungent and murky, it was impregnated with the usual seepage or urban and industrial pollutants. The best use it could be put to was washing and floor-cleaning; much of it was not even fit to boil. Drinking and cooking water still had to be carried from the stand-pipes, and a small workforce was engaged in this activity till the end.
Health problems were also a major concern. Before the Government got together with the Kai Fong to install a mains sewage line in the 1970s, raw human waste exited the City via open drains driven down the side of the tiny streets. Much of this sewage seeped away, forgotten, into the ground, leaving the underlying geology of the area like a giant septic tank. Underground sources, especially from the shallower wells, could not help but be contaminated.
The installation of a sewage mains was one of a number of essential services the Government felt compelled to provide. Like basic policing and lighting, and the provision of social services and rubbish removal, it was one of the several exceptions that broke the rule of non-intervention. It was, in a sense, the other necessary side of the coin to water supply, which the Government had allowed to be managed privately without regulation – extra-legally but not illegally. But sewage and waste removal was a matter of public hygiene, and had implications for the health of people beyond the City.
In later years, there were numerous calls to improve the situation by providing mains water more widely, but by then the authorities were able to cite the technical difficulties presented by the City. First among these, the Government argued, was the high concentration of buildings, none of which had adequate provision for water or waste. Second, there were the narrow streets and the sheer disruption that laying mains pipes would cause to City life. These were certainly valid considerations, but more important, perhaps, was a continuing reluctance to further encourage permanent settlement in the City, combined with the knowledge that more accessible pipework would only invite ever extending illegal connections.
Wells were not enough in themselves to supplement the eight paltry stand-pipes. Consequently there was some illegal tapping of mains water from outside the City, notably from the adjacent Sai Tau Tsuen and Mei Tung estates. This illegal business was monopolised, in the beginning, by the Triads. As these same organisations were also involved in much of the construction in the City, they were able to ensure that the newer buildings, at least, had some provision for water supply and waste – even if only of the most rudimentary kind – or could impress on the buyers the benefits of being connected.
Several competing water suppliers might also be competing for business in one building, particularly where the building was not owned by a single proprietor. Once a household was connected to a particular supplier, there were clear rules of business-client behaviour. Residents would generally pay on time for fear their water would be cut off or their pipes damaged. Fee collectors would tell customers that their dues were partly for the upkeep of the system and partly for bribes to officials. For some residents it could mean more than a simple business relationship.
The Triad leader who, in 1980, laid down the law on a price rise is one case in point. “Whoever dares to take the lead in opposing the hike”, he said, “we’ll chop him up in front of the crowd.”
In time, the Triads sold off most of their ‘business’ interest in the City, but the illegal tapping of mains water remained an important source of drinking water until the end. Those involved in the clearance are reluctant to admit how extensive this practice might have been, but it is unrealistic to assume that 33,000 people and 700 businesses could have been supplied by 67 ground wells alone. The decision was made that it was better to turn a blind eye. To close down the illegal supplies would have caused unnecessary hardship for the residents and brought increased resentment. It was easier to clear the City and solve the problem once and for all.

[url=][img=512,737][/img][/url]A man washes his hair at the stand-pipe

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                                                                                     INTO THE MAZE                                            [url=][img=512,669][/img][/url]

Greg and I spent over four years photographing in the Walled City, but in all that time, over all those visits, it is probably fair to say we only ever really scratched the surface. Between us we probably walked the length of nearly all the alleys at ground level, the main ones so often we got to know them well, but many of the smaller ones remained a mystery. We soon learnt that if we found something of interest in those back alleys, we had to try and photograph it there and then as the likelihood of finding the same place again was probably next to impossible.
And once you entered the buildings and started exploring the warren of stairways and interconnecting corridors that weaved their way across the City at nearly every level, the problems of finding your way increased a hundred fold. There were a few routes that ran north to south across the City at around the 7th or 8th floors that I got to know quite well, but for the rest of the time it was a case of following your nose and seeing where it led. Occasionally you would come to a dead end but usually, through a process of trial and error, you could ascend or descend a few floors and find another corridor that led off in a different direction.
Exploring the buildings in this way was a constant adventure – very quickly you had absolutely no idea which building you might be in or even which floor you might be on. The only saving grace was that, in most cases, you could follow a staircase all the way down to ground level and pop out on to an alley that you might recognise. And because the site sloped quite steeply north to south, if you still didn’t know where you were, it was relatively easy to find one’s bearings and head towards one of the four main alleys that traversed the city from Tung Tau Tsuen Road on the City’s northern boundary and the park to the south.
To give a flavour of quite what it was like to explore the City in this way, I include here just a small selection of the photographs Greg and I took on our many excursions there.






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                                                                                     GOVERNMENT INTERVENTIONS                                            [url=][img=512,512][/img][/url]An aerial view from the south-west in 1975

The Hong Kong government had attempted to clear and demolish all or parts of the Walled City in 1947 and again in 1963, but had been rebuffed both times – on the latter occasion with a formal response of disapproval from China who had made it abundantly clear that their policy with regards the City was unlikely to change in the near future.
Up until that point, the Hong Kong authorities’ approach had largely been one of minimal involvement, to the point of making life for the residents there as difficult as possible. The police made regular patrols and, following a murder in the City in 1959 that forced a change of policy, arrested and prosecuted criminals caught there – without, it should be noted, a word of protest from the Chinese government – but all other services were withheld or severely restricted.
Refuse wasn’t collected and drainage was virtually non-existent. Following the huge fire at the Shek Kip Mei squatter settlement on Christmas Day 1953, that left 53,000 homeless, the electricity company was allowed access to reduce the reliance on kerosene for cooking and lighting, but the service remained severely under-powered due to a lack of sub-stations in the area. Fresh drinking water was only available from a handful of standpipes, all located outside the City itself.

[url=][img=512,366][/img][/url]The view along Tung Tau Tsuen Road in 1973

As the City grew, however, and the population rose to an estimated 20,000 by the end of the 1960s, it became clear that such an approach was unsustainable and from the mid-’60s onwards the Hong Kong authorities – working in association with the recently establish Kai Fong Residents Association – began operating in the City, tentatively at first but soon with an increasing confidence. An official government report from 1969 gives a clear account of the government’s involvement at that time:

Police activity in the Walled City is the same as everywhere else except that certain licensing laws are not enforced. This is not satisfactory from the Police point of view but a change of approach may not be justified and, in any case, crime and vice are controlled. It is not considered that Police policy in the Walled City has any effect on the Police task elsewhere.

Normal action is taken regarding offences discovered as a result of fire, and legislation regarding the storage of dangerous goods is enforced. The Department takes all the normal measures to put fires out but does not carry out preventative measures. The most significant change since the 1960 recommendations has been the development of the Walled City from a fairly typical squatter are to one containing a considerable number of multi-storey buildings. Most of these are of sub-standard construction and lack any form of fire protection. The lack of access roads makes it impossible to get fire appliances close to many of the buildings.

The USD provides daily collection and removal of refuse and of nightsoil, maintenance of public latrines, removal of the dead, pest control, daily chlorination of the wells, investigation of infectious diseases. No food premises are licensed and no health legislation enforced. Residents are generally co-operative but the area nonetheless remains a potential focus of diseases whilst it lacks proper paved surfaces, drainage, piped water supply, ventilation and open space.

The Labour Department enforces legislation regarding the employment of women and young persons and undertakes periodical surveys of factories and industrial premises. Factories are tolerated which would not be allowed elsewhere. Closure orders have been made where there is a serious fire hazard but none have been enforced in recent years.

[url=][img=512,774][/img][/url]A new tower block rises on Tung Tau Tsuen Road in 1975

The Education Department neither registers nor inspects regularly schools located within the Walled City, but it is prepared to act in any case where a blatant disregard for the safety of schoolchildren is brought to light. Sufficient primary school places exist in the immediate vicinity of Kowloon Walled City for children living within and without the Walled City.

The Resettlement Department does not conduct clearance operations within the Walled City and was instructed in July 1967 to suspend demolition of structures in the ‘sensitive zone’.

The PWD’s Buildings Ordinance Office do not take action against illegal structures or extensions to existing buildings. Observations have shown that the methods of construction of many new buildings in the Walled City are rudimentary and quite unsafe (but) to exercise supervision over buildings would imply Government approval of that which is illegal.

The Medical & Health Department do not take action against the unregistered doctors or dentists who operate within the Walled City and are of the opinion that these should continue to be tolerated except in blatant cases involving risk to life.

[url=][img=512,353][/img][/url]The south elevation in 1975 begins to reach its maximum height

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                                                                                     BUILDING BOOM                                            [url=][img=512,366][/img][/url]

By 1961, as the map of that year above indicates, the ground floor area of the Walled City was fast reaching saturation point. There were a few open spaces, but the agglomeration of buildings into tight clusters separated by narrow alleys (the latter already settling into the recognisable street layout of the City’s final years) was now firmly established. By this time, most of the buildings had risen to three or four storeys in height, matching those in the surrounding Sai Tua Tsuen squatter settlement, but demand for accommodation within the City’s confines continued to grow.
There had been so-called developers operating in the City from the beginning of the 1950s, usually small private contractors who would enter into an agreement with an established building owner to redevelop their one- or two-storey dwelling into something taller, larger and generally better built. The original owner would take possession of the same number of floors he had had before, while the contractor sold off the extra floors for a quick profit.
It was a model that proved remarkably successful and by the end of the 1950s nearly all of the City’s buildings had been redeveloped in this way. In the early years, most builders had been cautious not to overstep a line beyond which the Hong Kong authorities might be forced to act. The City’s ‘special’ status had by then been firmly established, but just how far the residents, both law-abiding and otherwise, might be able to go had never been made clear. It was a constant game of cat and mouse, with those living and working there constantly pushing the boundaries to see what they could get away with.
By the end of the 1950s and into the early 1960s, how much they could get away with was clearly quite a lot. As the 1962 photograph below indicates, taken from the hill to the north of the City, there were already several buildings straying up to five storeys and beyond, but the real breakthrough came the following year, as the Hong Kong Standard of  11th January 1963 reported under the headline ‘Big Building Boom Is On’, when a few brave individuals decided to build much higher.


The Hong Kong Standard article noted: “The Walled City of Kowloon is having a face-lift and private developers are busily pulling down old single-storeyed buildings and putting up new ones – most of them nine-storeys high. The redevelopment of real estate in the six-acre rectangular piece of land is booming. It is a striking contrast to the slackening of building industry in the rest of Hong Kong. Trade sources say that no less than a dozen sites are now being redeveloped by a handful of small-scale private contractors who know the place well. But flats in the newly reconstructed buildings are not cheap. They are selling at about $10,000 per flat with an internal area of around 200 square feet.”
And by all accounts the buildings were well appointed, the Standard’s report continuing: “The new buildings are equipped with modern facilities like water closets and running water … Electrical and telephone services are also available … The master-mind of all the buildings is a skilled worker. He is paid $600 a month and is in charge of all operations. ‘These buildings are safe, as all pillars are built with reinforced concrete,’ one master-mind says, ‘and the floors are four inches thick of reinforced concrete, a standard for tenements in new buildings throughout Hong Kong,’ he adds.”
As more and more buildings were completed over the next couple of years, without a response of any kind from the authorities, the floodgates opened and by 1968, when the photograph below was taken it is clear that nearly all the buildings had been redeveloped, not always to what seems to have become the nine-storey standard, but the inexorable rise of the City was clearly well under way.

Looking east along Tung Tau Tsuen Road in 1963.

The junction of Tung Tsing Road and Tung Tau Tsuen Road in 1968.
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                                                                                     CAGED BALCONIES                                            [url=][img=512,654][/img][/url]

One of the great contributions to the richness of Hong Kong’s urban scene were without doubt the caged balconies that lined the elevations not only of the Walled City, but also of many of the city’s other older tenement buildings. Sadly now but a distant memory, since they were classified as illegal structures in the late 1990s and torn down, these practical and otherwise very necessary additions to life in a tiny apartment were a source of constant delight.
They also represented a rugged, no-nonsense approach to vernacular design that was very much a signature of Hong Kong life in year’s gone by, and displayed a similar facility for making structures that can still be seen today in the temporary bamboo buildings or localised areas of scaffolding that can still be found from time to time, though these too are fast disappearing.
As I say, caged balconies were not unique to the Walled City, but in their very profusion there they had been raised almost to an artform that proved irresistible to the architectural photographer in me. I photographed them regularly and include just a small selection here, while others can be seen in the selection of prints available to buy.


On a purely technical note, I should point out that all of these images were taken on a land camera, resulting in 4” x 5” transparencies of incredible precision and clarity. Taking photographs on such a camera is a world away from the casual overindulgence of images available to the digital photographer. Instead, setting up a photograph via the inverted image projected on to the glass screen at the back of the camera – itself firmly anchored to a heavy tripod – forced you to look closely at what you were trying photograph.
Choosing the correct lens and framing the image just so, made possible by the camera’s high degree of movement between lens and picture plane, took time and patience. Spending half an hour to capture a single image is not unusual. Some photographers take far longer. Moving the camera a little to the left or the right, a little closer or a little further back, adjusting the rise and angle of the lens – every decision has a significant impact on the final image.
It requires an almost zen-like level of concentration, being totally involved in the moment, which I always found incredibly satisfying. Indeed, I still take the camera out occasionally now, just for the sheer pleasure of taking a photograph with it. I wasn’t planning it, but it has resulted in a remarkable series of images that I am grateful I had the good sense to take at the time and keep safe in they years since. I only wish I had taken more.


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                                                                                     IN THE BEGINNING                                            [url=][img=512,512][/img][/url]

For anyone who has spent any time in Hong Kong, or indeed in South-east Asia in general, the rate of growth and change in this part of the world is readily understood, but even so it comes as a surprise when looking at the aerial photograph of the Walled City above, taken in April 1949, to realise just how little was there at that time. Interestingly, even though the Japanese had demolished the walls during the War, the outline of where they once stood is still clearly visible, as are the central yamen buildings and the original school buildings to their left, though the latter would soon be torn down with their constituent parts used to build huts and smaller buildings more suitable to the needs of the refugees flooding into the area.
And flooding in they certainly were. The numbers are revealing. By the end of 1947 it is generally assumed that the population of Hong Kong, which had fallen to around 500,000 by the end of the War, had risen back to its pre-war level of just under one million, a mixture of returning residents and early refugees from the civil war in China. With so many buildings demolished or severely damaged during the conflict, however, there was even then a drastic shortage of habitable properties and significant numbers of squatter settlements were already beginning to spring up all over the hinterland of the Kowloon peninsula and on the hillsides of Hong Kong island.
But this was just the start. With the fighting in China increasing through 1948 and into the early part of 1949, as Mao Tse Tung completed his long march towards Beijing and power, a further one million refugees streamed across the border into Hong Kong, more than doubling the city’s population in just two years. And it didn’t stop there, with another million arriving during the 1950s. In the general austerity of the time, Hong Kong could barely cope, the only sensible solution being to allow the squatter settlements to grow at an inexorable rate throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s.



It is interesting to note in the 1949 aerial photograph that work was already well advanced on building the new Kowloon City around the grid of streets to the south of the Walled City, but elsewhere squatters’ shacks and buildings are already proliferating, though still interspersed with numerous fields and other open areas, even within the area of the Walled City itself. Sadly, no photographs of the Walled City seem to exist from this period. A photograph of a well, captioned as taken in or around Kowloon City in 1950 by the talented self-taught photographer Mak Fung, and another by him of children at a standpipe give a flavour of what life was like for those living in the squatter settlements of the time.
But the fields and open areas as shown in Mak Fung’s photographs were not to last long and, as shown in the 1956 aerial photograph below, the area was soon almost totally built up, a mixture of new developments and newly introduced public housing estates, and the growing number of self-built buildings within the Walled City itself and in the surrounding Sai Tau Tsuen squatter settlement. At this stage there was little difference between the buildings within the Walled City and the squatter settlement, most rising to just two, three or occasionally four storeys, though as the 1961 photograph of Sai Tau Tsuen shows (where a strict height limit was enforced) most, even at this stage, were substantial buildings with solid brick and concrete walls and tiled roofs.
But within the Walled City, this was about to change – the period of real growth was just about to begin.

An aerial view of the Walled City and surrounding area in 1956, just six years on from the photograph above but already heavily developed.

The Sai Tau Tsuen squatter settlement in 1961, like the Walled City crammed tight with substantial buildings.
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                                                                                     DARK ALLEYS                                            [url=][img=512,691][/img][/url]

For some four years or so, between 1987 and 1991 when the City was still fully occupied, Greg Girard and I spent innumerable days in the City recording its architectural fabric and spaces as well as many of the people who lived and worked there.
Internal circulation was minimal, with just four alleys that offered anything like a direct link between Tung Tau Tsuen Road on the City’s northern boundary and Lung Chun Road (actually a pedestrian footpath) that ran along the City’s southern edge. None of these were straightforward thoroughfares: all twisted and turned to varying degrees as they passed between the ever encroaching buildings, as well as stepping down at regular intervals to take in the three storey or so drop in the site from north to south.



For the most part, the main alleys were well-lit and were kept clean and tidy, but step off these main routes into the many smaller side alleys and conditions deteriorated rapidly – light levels fell, sometimes to almost complete darkness, and nearly all were lined above with water pipes that dripped constantly on the uneven ground, making the going treacherous.
In certain places these side alleys became a veritable maze as they interlinked and stepped around buildings and, without any discernible landmarks or distant views, it was all too easy to become totally disorientated. You just had to stumble on until, hopefully, you popped out again onto one of the main thoroughfares, the direction of their slope offering a handy way of finding a way out – up the hill northwards to Tung Tau Tsuen Road and down towards Lung Chun Road and the neighbouring park to the south.



Every trip was an adventure and you would never know for sure what you would find. Even long-term residents were wary of stepping off into unknown parts of the City, most preferring to stick to the alleys they knew best – usually the most direct route between their place of residence or work and the outside world. And surprisingly, considering just how many people lived in the City, the alleys never felt that busy, even during the morning or afternoon rush. Indeed, on the smaller side alleys and up the many stairways, you could go for quite long periods of time without meeting another soul. It was just another of the City’s many mysteries.


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sun 發表於 2016-5-23 14:20

[url=]City of Darkness                                    Revisited                  [/url]                              [list][*][url=]Latest Posts[/url][*][url=]The Book[/url][*][url=]The City[/url][*][url=]The People[/url][*][url=]Lost & Found[/url][*][url=]Urban Myths[/url][*][url=]Popular Culture[/url][*][url=]Exhibitions[/url][*][url=]Supporters[/url][/list]
For all its outrageousness as an architectural phenomenon, Kowloon Walled City was first and foremost a community. And it was this grounding that allowed what should by all rights have been impossible to survive as an enduring reality. With the help of our indispensable assistant Emmy Lung, we were able to record the stories of a number of Walled City residents and learn what it meant to make a home there. Here is a sample of what they told us.

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                    Posts                        [url=]CARE FOR THE ELDERLY[/url]                        [url=]A FISHY BUSINESS[/url]                        [url=]SHORT BACK AND SIDES[/url]                        [url=]WELL ROASTED[/url]                        [url=]A FAMILY AFFAIR[/url]                        [url=]NOODLE LIVING[/url]                        [url=]A WEAVING BUSINESS[/url]                        [url=]A SWEET FAMILY[/url]                        [url=]KUNG FU MASTER[/url]                        [url=]KEEPING SHOP[/url]                           
                                                                                     CARE FOR THE ELDERLY                                            [url=][img=512,354][/img][/url]Reverend Liu outside the Old People’s Centre in the yamen courtyard.

The Reverend Isaac Liu became a minister in the CNEC Living Word church in the late 1950s.  Running a school, a clinic and a small chapel, he took over the yamen, the old magistrate’s buildings, at the centre of the City in 1971, protecting them from redevelopment over the next 20 years until forced to vacate the premises as part of the clearance in 1991. Originally designated by the HK Government as alms-houses in the 1930s, the yamen was the only building to be saved during the demolition of the City and, though heavily rebuilt, it can now be found in the Kowloon Walled City Park.

“I was born in 1935 and came to Hong Kong in 1950 from my native village in China. I came because of the changes happening there, following the political upheaval of those days. If you did not follow Government policy, there was trouble. Everyone yearned for freedom and many tried to leave the country.
Life was very difficult when I first arrived; only those who had a job could survive. I did not speak Cantonese and I often felt lonely and depressed. But then, one day, I met a stranger in the street, distributing pamphlets. He spoke in Mandarin: “Come and listen to the gospel tonight”. After that I started to go to church often. I learnt some hymns and sang them when I felt lonely and empty. I also read the Bible, and every time I found the feeling of emptiness disappeared.
Within a year of putting my faith in Jesus, I wanted to tell everybody the good message and let them benefit too, but I didn’t know how as I still did not know Cantonese. But then, at one of our meetings, the preacher said they needed someone to help with the preaching. I volunteered and was sent to a seminary where I stayed for three years. It was during my time there that I began to work in the Walled City. To begin with, we rented a few wooden shacks and started a school for the children – mainly reading and writing.
Then, in 1960, we started a Gospel Centre, in a four-storey building on Lung Shing Road. On the ground floor we had a chapel – with a small clinic and rehabilitation centre for drug addicts on the mezzanine floor above – and on the three floors above we started the Tak Shing school. At our peak we had more than 420 pupils, from kindergarten to primary Six. We taught the same subjects as other schools and most of our pupils came from the Walled City.
In 1971 we moved to our present premises, which were previously a home for the elderly, in the centre of the City. We continued to operate the school, chapel and clinic, but after a while the doctor moved to Yau Tong; he was upset because the drug addicts he helped kept going back on the habit. The Salvation Army took over his premises for a few years.
We started the Old People’s Centre in 1979. At first we had very little money. We opened in the afternoons from Monday to Saturday, and on Sunday for worship. We applied for Government grants and when we received some support we started to organise more activities. We distributed pamphlets in the Walled City, but people didn’t believe we could offer so many activities for free. Only a few people came to begin with but, as they spread the word, numbers grew. Now we have 184 members.
The Government has offered us a new place in Kwun Tong of about 1600 square feet, but our premises here are three times that size. Only about a third of the elderly have moved out of the Walled City so far. We are arranging for them to join other centres near their new homes, and we will continue to serve the aged in our new district. Some of the elderly who have moved out wanted to travel back each day to the Centre, but we told them it was too dangerous. They complained that we didn’t want them any more, but we said that was untrue and that we were thinking of their safety. They wanted to come back because of the close relationships they had established here and because of the many benefits we offer.
We provide afternoon tea including biscuits. The Social Welfare Department doesn’t like this as it fears it will encourage some people not to eat lunch. I explained that the elderly want to save money for their children in China and we were just giving them a little help, so the service has been maintained. When we move to our new premises we will not have a kitchen, only a pantry, but I suppose the needs of the residents there may be different.
A few years ago we could only raise about $10,000 each year for our activities’ fund. Now, however, we receive an annual donation of $30,000 from the Community Chest and other funds from the church.  This means we can now pay a salary to the two women who used to help us voluntarily. They are both mothers, but they work very hard and have never taken long periods of leave.  And, since last year, we have also employed a supervisor, paid for separately by the Community Chest.
We arrange trips which are always popular. Each time we have around 90 participants and need to hire three coaches. The two mothers and I lead the trips, and we have at last one trip or major activity each season..
I began living in the Walled City in 1971. I was not afraid as I had been visiting frequently since the mid-1950s. In the ‘60s there were many drug addicts – you could always see them from the roof of the school – and there were also gambling spots, vice establishments and live shows but these disappeared slowly during the ‘70s. We were not disturbed, as they knew we were operating for the welfare of the residents.
Some of our members are very active, others are quiet and some are difficult to handle. Most are fairly independent and come and go as they please, but some worry that if they don’t come to the Centre every day we will have to close down. You have to have more patience when handling the elderly; you can scold a child, but not an old person.

[url=][img=512,334][/img][/url]Arriving for afternoon tea.

[url=][img=512,334][/img][/url]The Centre provided much needed companionship for those who lived alone.

[url=][img=512,768][/img][/url]Elderly ladies were in the majority but some men attended too.

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                                                                                     A FISHY BUSINESS                                            [url=][img=512,334][/img][/url]The owner, Lam Leung Po

Lam Leung Po became a partner in his minced fish factory in 1983. Located on the ground floor of 58 Lung Chun Road, his business was just one of many food-processing factories in an area conveniently close to the one Government stand-pipe to be found in the City, allowing clean water to be piped directly to a storage tank in the factory via a hosepipe looped across and along the neighbouring alleys.

“This business has been here, in the Walled City, for about eight or nine years. It used to be just outside, in the Sai Tau Tsuen squatter village before it was pulled down. That place opened a long time ago.
I joined the business only after it had moved here. The shop’s quite big: around 480 square feet. We did a little decoration when we first moved in; it wasn’t always like this. I’ve no idea what it was before we arrived. Of course, it wasn’t that easy, but I wouldn’t say it was that difficult either. Nobody asked us for protection money. The rent was cheaper here and the hygiene regulations were not so troublesome; that was the most convenient part. Everything was much simpler here somehow. We’ve never had a hygiene inspector visit, for example, not once. Of course, businesses outside are doing things much the same way, but they need a licence. I could probably get a licence if I wanted to, since I’m doing the same job, but we don’t really need one here.
What I’m making now is minced fish. We also make fish dumplings and squidballs – three products altogether. I’ve been making these since we started. The fish used in the dumplings is not the same as that for the fishballs; it’s eel which is quite expensive. The squid for the squidballs comes from Thailand. I used to mix things by hand, but now I use this mixer.  It’s no big deal – just put the stuff in, mix it and then stir.
There weren’t so many helpers in the beginning, but over time the staff has kept on expanding. A few neighbours – ladies – help me with the fish dumplings. I have five full-time workers as well, making seven of us in all with me and my partner. The dumpling makers are just part-time. We make about 300 catties of minced fish a day. If we have more orders, we just work harder. It would be easier if we had more helpers, but I won’t bring more people now.
Most of my customers come from outside the City. We make less on Tuesdays, because traditionally not many people eat fish then. They tend to eat more on the other days, mainly in hotpots. At the moment we sell the minced fish to over 200 shops, the fish dumplings go to several dozen places and the squidballs to around 100 shops. That is quite a lot, but it’ll be more as the weather gets cooler and demand rises.”

[url=][img=512,334][/img][/url]Baskets of eels wait to be processed in the alley outside the factory.

[url=][img=512,783][/img][/url]Making the fish dumplings.

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                                                                                     SHORT BACK AND SIDES                                            [url=][img=512,333][/img][/url]The entrance to Ho Chi Kam’s hairdressing salon on Tai Chang Street

Though he had lived in the City for much longer, Ho Chi Kam only took over the running of the barber’s shop at 10 Tai Chang Street in 1985. Located just a short distance from the sole government stand-pipe within the confines of the City, it was unsurprisingly a fairly prosperous business whose customers – mainly local Walled City residents – would occasionally have to queue for service. The shop eventually closed in late 1991, shortly before the start of phase two of the clearance. Ho was unhappy about this and would only give a short interview.

I first read about my flat in Shing Pau Daily News; I bought it and moved in at the beginning of 1974. The flat is on the Tung Tau Tsuen Road, so I didn’t really have to come inside the City until I started running my own barber’s shop. Then I came every day.
Before that, I worked in the same trade for other people. This place belonged to a friend who offered it to me when he decided to leave. I had to borrow some money to set myself up, but I’ve been here for five years now and I am the sole proprietor. We are the only hair parlour inside the City and my customers are people living nearby.
So many people used to live here that if only one in a hundred came to me, I would have enough business. We set the prices as we liked, but we were cheaper than the barbers outside. My wife and I both worked, and sometimes there was a lot of business. We used to open at 9am and close when there were no more customers – it was very flexible. There were no problems with supplies as we paid on delivery.
Now that the Walled City is to be demolished, I have started working for others again and only come here on Wednesdays, my day off. Of course, from the point of view of my business, I’m not happy about the demolition. Running the barber’s shop here didn’t make me wealthy, but I didn’t have to worry about my next meal either. Now, working for someone else, I only receive 30 per cent of every $100 I earn. I have to bring in $300 for the boss before I can get $90. I would be able to earn that doing just one head.
However, there is no choice. We have to move whether we like it or not. The only problem is that it’s not possible to start up a similar shop outside, because I couldn’t afford the rent.

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                                                                                     WELL ROASTED                                            [url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]Marinading the smaller cuts of meat prior to cooking

Yim Kwok Yuen opened his cooked meat factory on Lo Yan Street in 1981, a few years after his arrival in Hong Kong and just three years before the City’s clearance was announced. A thriving business, he and his brother continued working there until the factory was closed during the first phase of the clearance operation in the summer of 1991.

“I came to Hong Kong in 1978, when I was 35 year old, from Ching Yuen county in Kwangtung Province where I was a farmer. My parents were old and, as the eldest of my five brothers and sisters, I had to support the family. Life was not very different from death in China. We worked really hard for very little return. I started work at 4am and my daily salary was 20 to 30 cents. We did not have our own farm and, when hungry, we only had rice husks or the grass to eat. You felt cold and hungry in the winter, and in the summer there were lots of mosquitoes.
From 1971 onwards, I tried almost every year to sneak into Hong Kong. I didn’t have to swim far but I had to climb hills after crossing a river about one metre deep. I was scratched by the bushes. I always used the same route, and each time I was caught I was imprisoned and starved. I often fainted. If I had been given my own fields I would not have tried to come here.
When I finally arrived in Hong Kong, I lived with my uncle and worked in a shop which made roasted food. After several months’ apprenticeship, I went to work in my uncle’s roasting shop in the Walled City. When my younger brother arrived in Hong Kong three years later, I started my own roasted food business, selling the cooked meat on the streets.
Initially, I made the roasted food in my uncle’s shop and sold it. Then I rented this processing shop three years ago. I sell the food on the streets myself. If I delivered it to a retail shop, the profit would be much less. I am unlicensed hawker and I sell in Wong Tai Sin market. I have been arrested five times since the computerisation of records. You have to deposit a bail of $700 and the fine is $500 increasing by $10 for each arrest. In Wong Tai Sin, they confiscate the food but return the tools and cart. The cart is worth more than $1000.
I start work every day at 4am. I do not need an alarm clock – my body wakes me up. I start to roast the meat then, and sell it in the market from 6:15am to 8am. As I am a hawker, I am not allowed to sell in the streets after 8am. I then come back for breakfast and at 9am start work again to prepare the meat to be roasted in the afternoon. At about 10am I return home to cook lunch and have a rest before coming back to the shop to roast. At about 3pm I go to the market again, returning home at around 7 or 8pm.
My brother and I manage the shop here. The roasted food we prepare includes chicken, goose and pork. To make the food, we use flavouring, salt, sugar and so on. I you can afford it you can use good Chinese wine, but otherwise a cheap one will do.

[url=][img=512,768][/img][/url]Whole pig carcasses being prepared for roasting

For pork, we have to call a buyer to purchase a pig from the Cheung Sha Wan abattoir. When the pig is delivered, we cut it, wash it and put it in the refrigerator. We normally have 10 or more pigs in stock. The whole process of preparing one roasted pig takes three hours. The cooking itself takes an hour. You have to roast the pig until it is 20 to 30 per cent cooked, take it out of the oven and pierce it to let the air out from the skin – otherwise it does not look good. Then you have to heat the skin with a hot flame so that bubbles appear and make it crispy.
We use the cart to carry the food to the market. We work hard, even though the temperature is very high in the summer. The refrigerator is noisy, and the oven is noisy and hot. We sweat tremendously. We have fans in our workshop, but we have no cover in the market. We have cockroaches and rats too, which we feed. Occasionally, of course, when our customers criticise our food or don’t buy it, we feel unhappy. The life is difficult but, as the returns belong to us, it’s worthwhile.
We mostly sell roast pig. If the hawker control team doesn’t come, we can sell about three pigs in one day and earn $2000 to $3000; if the team comes, we can only sell one. During the festival periods we can sell 20 to 30 pigs in a day, and as festivals always fall on public holidays the hawker control teams don’t come. We have no sleep on those days.
The shop is not licensed either and is rented. Outside the Walled City you must have a licence, although the Government has stopped issuing them for processing shops and only grants them to retail outlets. We have never been inspected, but we are cleaner than the famous workshops outside; they often don’t wash and clean the pigs first.
When I had earned enough, I went to Canton and got married. I now have a son and have applied for my wife and child to come to Hong Kong. I first applied eight years ago, but I’ll be satisfied if they can come before the Walled City is demolished.

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]A roasted pig carcass cooling after being removed form the large cylindrical ovens

I own two flats in the Walled City. The first one cost me around $80,000. The living environment is bad and it has no windows. The second flat is a few stories higher in the same building and it has windows. I had intended to sell the first flat, but then the demolition was announced. The compensation for demolition is around $800,000 for the two flats.
My brother, my uncle and I live together in one flat. The other flat is rented out at $800 a month. Before I bought the first flat, I rented a place here in the City – eight single men lived in a room of 200 square feet.  There are three bedrooms and two living rooms in my house. We have an air-conditioner, though we only use it on the hottest days; we also have a television and a washing machine.
The rent for the workshop is $2000 a month, with electricity and water charges included. I believe that half of the water is stolen from the mains, while the other half comes from the well, We all use well-water but we use water from the mains for drinking. We have never had a power failure.
I don’t think I will make any profit from the demolition of the Walled City except that I may get a new house. For rented premises, the Government will only compensate with a relocation fee. When I started my business, the initial capital outlay was $30,000 but I would need $50,000 to start up again. I have not decided where to go after the demolition. If I opt for a unit on a housing estate, the compensation will drop from $400,000 to $130,000 and I have to pay the rent. If I buy a new house, I need several hundred thousand more for renovation.  I also have to give a house to my brother.
If possible, I would like the Government to compensate me for the shop by giving me a stall; It will be difficult to operate a processing workshop in future. If I want to have it properly licensed, I will have to go to a rural area. The roasted food will have to be transported to an urban district and it will be cold before it gets there. I have to decide on my place of business before I can decide where to settle.
I was not scared of anything when I came to Hong Kong. After all, no one ill-treated you here. I came from a poor village where the hygiene conditions were much worse. Only the air was better. Coming from such a poor place, I thought Hong Kong was heaven. The Walled City is alright; I came from a worse environment, so I’ve never really thought of it as bad. If I had had a job or money, I would have considered leaving, but I’m not educated and it would have been very difficult to survive anywhere else.”

[url=][img=512,333][/img][/url]Off to market

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                                                                                     A FAMILY AFFAIR                                            [url=][img=512,342][/img][/url]

Chun Lo Ying moved into the Walled City in 1958, and lived in various buildings there before buying an apartment on the fourth floor of 82 Lung Chun Road, overlooking the park. She was regularly joined for dinner by one or two of her 10 children, including Chung Kwai Mao and Chung Yuk Yee both of whom also lived in the City.
“I have lived in the Walled City for more than 30 years, and in this flat for more than 10. Before coming to the Walled City we lived in Hung Hom, but we were robbed and really scared, so we decided to rent a place here. We agreed with a Chiu Chow family, whose wooden hut had burnt down, to build a new house on their land. We would pay for the construction and get the first floor and they would keep the ground floor. That place soon became too small, so we rented another first floor apartment instead. After 10 years or so we decided to buy that place, and then two or three years later a construction company talked us into an exchange arrangement.


The company offered us a first-floor flat in the new building, if they could develop our existing place. The developer asked people with whom I was friendly to negotiate on his behalf and we struck a deal. The old four-storey building was to be developed as a 13-storey unit and the building next door as 14 storeys. A unit like the one we are now in cost around $120,000, sometimes a bit more; the ones in the middle of the City were only worth $80,000. I signed an agreement with the developer at a tea house with a witness.
I had heard of the Walled City before moving in, but I was not particularly worried. You got used to it. Getting water was troublesome, and the drug addicts used to quarrel and get into fights. I told my children just to ignore them or stay at home. Usually we were not bothered, although my second daughter was robbed once, probably by an outsider. I have never really explored the place; I just use the main streets. I hardly know the names of the alleys.
I have 10 children, six of whom have been born since we moved into the City. They have all been good; they don’t get into trouble. I would worry occasionally when there were big fights and quarrels in other apartments, because I’d heard of people being killed. I would just tell my kids to come home and we locked the doors. When they were out late at night, I might occasionally go out to fetch them and accompany them home.”

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                                                                                     NOODLE LIVING                                            [url=][img=512,333][/img][/url]

Hui Tung Choy opened his noodle factory at the back of 2 Kwong Ming Street in 1965. In 1992, he was married with two young daughters.
“I came to live with my aunt in Hong Kong in 1947; I was 16 and my parents had died. I was brought up in Sun Hui [Guangdong] and I’d only ever been to primary school. After I arrived, I didn’t do much of anything for a while, until I began working with my cousin making noodles. I then opened my own noodle-making place with a friend. We needed a little capital to buy the machines, but flour was supplied to us on credit. One person can make about five or six packs of noodles a day, which is around 300 individual ‘discs’. It’s crowded here and tough work.


We used to employ five people when the business was at its height in 1980; we were producing around 1000 discs a day then. We also employed two young lads to deliver to customers: one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. But young people today don’t want to work in a place like this. My partner fell sick and he and his wife decided he should drop out, so now I work on my own. I’m just about able to scrape by. We chose the Walled City because rents were low and you didn’t need a licence To set up outside you’d have to go through various Government departments – labour health, fire services and so forth. The City was Chinese territory so no one took much notice of what was going on here.
I’ve been around the City for the past 25 years. Actually, we used to live in Sai Tau village [the adjoining ‘squatter’ settlement pulled down in 1985]. When we first moved here the rent was a little over $100 a month; now it’s about $1300. This building used to be a three-storey block before it was rebuilt, when we moved next door for eight or nine months. We have a flat up above but we cook and take our showers here, and my kids do their homework here too. All the people around here know us and there hasn’t really been any trouble over the years. The only problem now is that, as more people have moved away, there are more rats and cockroaches everywhere.”

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                                                                                     A WEAVING BUSINESS                                            [url=][img=512,333][/img][/url]

One of 12 children, Lau Yeung Yin took over the family weaving business from his father in 1982, running the company from a small factory on Sai Shing (West City) Road.
“I was born in the Walled City. My father arrived in Hong Kong the day before peace was declared. He settled in the City and began to run a weaving factory, just as he had before in his home village and in Canton.
The Walled City was a better place when I was a kid. There were just two- or three-storey stone and wooden houses then. Dad’s factory was on Lung Chung Road. I think he just squatted and occupied the space. I have 11 brothers and sisters, but we were not all living together. One sister was left in the home village on the mainland, another sister was given away and an elder brother was married before I came along. We lived in the factory. There were no beds; we just moved the yarn and cleared a space when we wanted to sleep.
We used water from the wells at the beginning and then we were served by taps outside the City. Instead of coming straight home after school we sneaked out to play, but if I came home too late Mum would beat me. We went up into the hills, sometimes as far as Lion Rock, and played hide-and-seek. One of our great joys was to have a little money to buy sweet potatoes and have them baked.
When I was very young, I was unaware of the existence of anything bad. It was only when I was 14 or15 years old that I started to be aware of the gambling dens and the drug addicts. It was quite a sight to see a line of heroin addicts squatting along the alley taking their drugs. People who came from outside to take part in such goings on would not bother the local residents.
In the early 1960s, the Government tried to demolish the Walled City and a big fight ensued. Dad was the treasurer of the Kai Fong Association then. Three days before the demolition was due to take place, they sent a telegram to Beijing and the Chinese Government responded by demanding compensation and resettlement on the residents’ behalf. Dad was fairly neutral in his politics – the Kai Fong also sent telegrams to Taiwan and it was just a matter of who cared the most.
I became a tailor’s apprentice, but only for a few months when I left school. Then I went to work in a rattan shop for my brother-in-law on Hong Kong island, and lived and worked there for several years until I was 19. Following that, I went to work at Dad’s weaving factory until I was married, at the age of 21, and then went back to the rattan shop. A while later, I was asked to return to help in Dad’s factory – my younger brother had taken it over by then. Dad trusted him, but he was just taking money from the till as he saw fit. We were making fabric for gloves and I was paid $1500 a month.
I have a son and a daughter who are studying in Wong Tai Sin. We have a public housing unit in Tai Po and we go there sometimes. We rarely sleep there though, as it is too much of a rush in the morning to get the kids to school on time.
I’ll be paid about $103,000 in compensation for this factory. I tried to get $200,000 but there was an interview – not a very satisfactory one – where I was told to reduce the sum I was demanding. I don’t think I will be able to find a similar place to continue the weaving business – I can only afford $1500 a month in rent. The machines will be sold but no one will pay a high price for them. Maybe I’ll change to another business.”

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                                                                                     A SWEET FAMILY                                            [url=][img=512,336][/img][/url]

Lee Yu Chun worked in the family’s candy business from its beginning in 1964, when she was not yet 10 years old. Established in Sham Shui Po, the factory moved to the City a few years later, and to its final location at 12 Sai Shing Road in the early 1970s.
“My family opened their first sweet factory when I was a kid. My father came back to Hong Kong from abroad and began manufacturing soap at first, but I liked lollies. We were living in Sham Shui Po and I used to buy sweets for myself from a neighbourhood factory; I think this inspired him to start his own sweet-making business.
We used a charcoal stove in the early days and then later switched to a kerosene one to melt the sugar – about 10 pounds or so at a time. We didn’t have any machines and so pressed the sweets out manually. We didn’t have many customers either, so my elder brother would go around introducing our products. Our company is called Chui Fung and it’s very much a family business, although other people in the neighbourhood are employed to help.
Now we have to move, but I hope we will be able to set up elsewhere. The cost of running the operation here is small and we don’t need to pay rent. We don’t have any capital and leaving here will mean a significant drop in our competitiveness. We would have to revise our prices to cover the rise in the cost of living.”


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                                                                                     KUNG FU MASTER                                            [url=][img=512,338][/img][/url]

Born in Po Ling, China, in 1920, Wong Hoi Ming spent much of his youth in Thailand before being expelled back to China in 1938 for campaigning against the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. Leaving his wife and family to protect the family land in China, he fled to Hong Kong alone in 1949.
“When I first arrived here from China, I became the head of a ‘coolie’ gang on Hong Kong island in Western District. I was pretty good at martial arts, and when people were injured in fights I would fix them up. You see, I’d learnt a bit of medicine and kung fu when I was in Thailand, and I then studied under some masters in Chiu Chow.
I was persuaded to take my medical practices more seriously, and a friend helped me to get a business licence. I began practising on Hong Kong Island, but when the building I was living in was demolished I moved to the Walled City. I’d been coming here once a week for several years to teach martial arts, so I knew the place quite well and knew it was cheap. My students came from all walks of life – some were drivers, others fish sellers, factory hands, air conditioner repairers, you name it. They were learning martial arts for self-defence. I didn’t ask for money when someone became my student; they would just burn some incense and that was it.
There was a time when I let people play mahjong here. There was room for two tables and I would charge a small commission; people would also leave what they wanted for the facilities. But I stopped that a few years ago. It’s a small space and if patients came for a consultation when the mahjong players were here I couldn’t really do my job properly. Also, the women patients were too shy, especially if they had to take some of their clothes off for treatment.
Most of my patients suffer from rheumatism, though I also treat people with fight injuries, back problems and numbness in the body. I’ve got them all written up. My treatment includes the identification of the main symptoms, the use of heated cups on the body for suction and the application of herbal poultices. I also use massage and stretching. I make hot herbal medicines as well, and many people come to buy these for their rheumatism. Most of my clients come form Kwun Tong [a working class industrial area in Kowloon], though there are some who come from as far as Shatin and Aberdeen.
I don’t have fixed fees. If my clients seem to be well off, I suggest they give me more; if not, I ask for less. A patient from Kwun Tong – a vegetable seller – always brings me a carton of cigarettes! I could be charging $400 to $500 for a single treatment if I wanted. My income’s never very stable, though. Sometimes, I don’t get a single client for days or even weeks.
I’ve been in this apartment since I came to the Walled City. The rent here was originally just $150.00 per month; then it went up to $300, so I bought the place. Actually I was told to leave, but the owner was not able to get me out. But now I will have to leave. I’m getting around HK$140,000 for this place, but nothing for being a herbal doctor which I think is unfair. The other doctors are getting a lot more.”


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                                                                                     KEEPING SHOP                                            [url=][img=512,340][/img][/url]
Grocery-store owner Chan Pak and his beloved cats in his tiny shop on Lung Chun Back Road
Born in China in 1916, Lam Tseng Yat arrived in Hong Kong 10 years later, with his father and four brothers. In 1947, they bought a small property at 25 Tai Chang Street and opened their first store.
“Our business has been registered with the Government for more than 20 years, and our shop has existed for more than 40. We registered because it meant we could make use of the facilities offered by the banks, but it’s not really necessary.
The demolition is a real problem. From the outset, we have demanded a shop for a shop, and living quarters for living quarters from the Government. The compensation is such a small amount of money; how can we survive outside? It isn’t even enough to set up another shop. We shall be jobless. If they won’t give us a place for a new shop, they should give us sufficient money to buy one – and that means nothing less than $1.5 million.
I have lived here all these years, with my wife. All my children were born here; they were married here. We lived on the first and fourth floors of this building, but when my children moved out we sold them and now I live in the shop. My fourth brother has 12 children and they lived in the City too.
We shall stay on even if there is no business left, and I will never accept the offer of $210,000. Of course, they can find ways to drive us out. They can pull everything down, but the demolition of the Walled City isn’t the same as getting rid of ordinary squatters. The whole world will know about it. I told the guy from the City Administration Office that if the compensation was not right, I would not move. We will not move, even if we are machine-gunned.”
Lam Tseng Yat lived in the City and ran his shop on Tai Chang Street for over 40 years.
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sun 發表於 2016-5-23 14:22

[url=]City of Darkness                                    Revisited                  [/url]                              [list][*][url=]Latest Posts[/url][*][url=]The Book[/url][*][url=]The City[/url][*][url=]The People[/url][*][url=]Lost & Found[/url][*][url=]Urban Myths[/url][*][url=]Popular Culture[/url][*][url=]Exhibitions[/url][*][url=]Supporters[/url][/list]
Do you know anybody who appeared in the original edition of City of Darkness, or perhaps are one of those people? We would dearly love to hear from you and, if you are willing, share your story here on this website or in City of Darkness Revisited. Shown below are photographs of those we are most keen to speak to, but there are many others. Please contact [email][/email] if you can help.

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                                                                                     WHERE ARE THEY NOW?                                            [url=][img=512,332][/img][/url]Chan Kwan Leung, owner and breeder of racing pigeons

Over the four or so years that we spent exploring the Walled City, Greg and I photographed a great many people, most in passing on the stairways and in the alleys or working in the factories we stumbled upon during our visits there.Almost without exception, we usually never saw any of these people again. A few, however, we spent more time with and, with the help of our indefatigable assistant Emmy acting as go-between, translator and interviewer, they became the subject of extended stories in City of Darkness. Sadly, as the clearance progressed, we lost contact with nearly all of these people but we would love to find out how things turned out for them.
Some of the older residents are no longer with us, but shown here are photographs of some of those we would love to get in touch with. If you recognise anybody and know how they can be contacted, or indeed if you are one of these people and are willing to talk to us, please email [email][/email]. All information will be handled in total confidence.
Greg and I are forever grateful to all of those shown in the book, with special thanks to those who allowed us to share their story.

[url=][img=512,339][/img][/url]Chan Pui Yin, owner of a pharmacy and traditional Chinese medicine store of Lung Chun road

[url=][img=512,786][/img][/url]Chan Shing, one of the Walled City’s private water suppliers

[url=][img=512,768][/img][/url]Chan Wai Shui, owner of a traditional noodle making factory

[url=][img=512,781][/img][/url]Chau Sau Yee, owner of a popular cake shop

[url=][img=512,337][/img][/url]Cheng Koon Yiu, a dentist

[url=][img=512,342][/img][/url]Chung Lo Ying and family,  long-time residents of the City

[url=][img=512,339][/img][/url]Chung Yuk Yee, Chung Lo Ying’s daughter and also a Walled City resident

[url=][img=512,329][/img][/url]Factory Worker, name and  place of work unknown

[url=][img=512,337][/img][/url]Ho Chi Kam, owner of a hairdressing salonon Tai Chang street

[url=][img=512,332][/img][/url]Hui Tung Choy, owner of a family-run noodle making business

[url=][img=512,342][/img][/url]Kwok Tsang Ming, a worker in a fishball-making factory

[url=][img=512,335][/img][/url]Lam Leung Po, owner of a fishball-making business on Tai Chang street

[url=][img=512,338][/img][/url]Lau Yeung Yin, owner of a family-run weaving business

[url=][img=512,780][/img][/url]Lam Kim Kwong, a baker of traditional Chinese cakes

[url=][img=512,335][/img][/url]Lee Pui Yuen, owner of a family-run store on Lung Chun Back road

[url=][img=512,337][/img][/url]Lee Yu Chun, co-owner with her husband of a family-run candy-making business

[url=][img=512,339][/img][/url]Lee Yu Chun’s husband

[url=][img=512,337][/img][/url]Mr Lui, the Walled City’s most experienced postman

[url=][img=512,332][/img][/url]Mrs Law, a long-time resident of the City

[url=][img=512,786][/img][/url]Mrs Law’s grandchildren, who stayed with their grandmother after school

[url=][img=512,334][/img][/url]Rooftop children, names unknown

[url=][img=512,334][/img][/url]Rooftop children, names unknown

[url=][img=512,331][/img][/url]Rooftop children, names unknown

[url=][img=512,350][/img][/url]Rooftop girl, name unknown

[url=][img=512,344][/img][/url]To Gui Bon, owner of a factory making rubber goods

[url=][img=512,337][/img][/url]Tsin Mu Lam, one of the City’s many unlicensed doctors

[url=][img=512,333][/img][/url]Wong Cheung Mei, a dentist

[url=][img=512,768][/img][/url]Wong Yu Ming

[url=][img=512,339][/img][/url]Yim Kwok Yuen

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sun 發表於 2016-5-23 14:25

[url=]City of Darkness                                    Revisited                  [/url]                              [list][*][url=]Latest Posts[/url][*][url=]The Book[/url][*][url=]The City[/url][*][url=]The People[/url][*][url=]Lost & Found[/url][*][url=]Urban Myths[/url][*][url=]Popular Culture[/url][*][url=]Exhibitions[/url][*][url=]Supporters[/url][/list]
Ghetto. Slum. Den of iniquity, or just a thoroughly bad place. The Walled City’s reputation always preceded it: a place outside the law where policemen feared to tread; a place controlled by rival Triad gangs, where every manner of vice was available; a place where outsiders entered at their peril, risking robbery, kidnapping or worse. For the most part there was enough truth in the received wisdom to keep outsiders away. But the reality was of course far more complicated. Find out more below.

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                                                                                     A POLICEMAN’S STORY                                            [url=][img=512,330][/img][/url]A policeman makes notes  on the 11th floor landing of an apartment block.

Even today, more than 20 years after the Walled City was demolished, the myth that the police never entered the Walled City persists. Many people, it seems, are drawn to the idea of a community that exists totally beyond the reach of the law. Imagination takes over and a romanticised vision quickly evolves that is difficult to dispel. A story that evokes a shiver of excitement or disbelief, however outlandish, will always outdo mundane reality.
This is certainly true of the Walled City, even though the reality could hardly be more different. The police were, in fact, patrolling in the City from the beginning, and while it is true that there was a considerable amount of illegal activity there during the 1950s, after that time the City was little different to many other parts of working class Hong Kong. Here below are the recollections of a police officer with several years experience of patrolling the City. He spoke to us in 1990, without authorisation, and asked that we not identify him, so the accompanying photographs are of other police patrols met by chance in the City.

“I joined the Police seven years ago. I was first stationed in Tai Kok Tsui, then I became a Blue Beret and was transferred to Kowloon City. The Walled City used to come under the Mobile Police Unit assigned to the area, but now it’s under the Task Force. It was a sensitive area, of course, but it’s been a long time since the City was out of bounds.
I was posted to City in 1985, and have patrolled there now for five years. I adapted to the place quickly. I was older and quite used to having contact with the sort of people you come across inside. In fact, police work in the City was similar to our work elsewhere. There used to be a rule that two or more policemen would have to go on patrol together, and there had to be memo from the Regional Command Centre stating the names of those going in, but now that’s changed and any policeman can go it alone.
When the Sai Tau Tsuen settlement next to the City was being demolished, in 1985, there were just six of us responsible for the Walled City area – two people on each of the three beats a day. Now, with the clearance under way, there are more. When we went on patrol, we had to sign 11 report books, while on a normal beat outside the City you’d sign just two or three.
When I first took up my assignment, the City was still thriving and everything was very much out in the open. It’s become so quiet these days! There were prostitutes soliciting on the streets; they usually had their regular spots. There were child prostitutes as well. Now only the older ones are left. Yes, there were quite a few goings-on then that are probably best left untold. For example, a colleague arrested some men for possession of bombs brought in from China; no one seems to have heard anything about this!

[url=][img=512,768][/img][/url]Policemen patrol one of the cleaner ground-floor alleys.

The City has never been that much different from other areas, though. In some ways it’s actually quieter and less sophisticated. One special feature about the place is that roof-tops on the buildings are connected to one another, so you can just ‘fly’ here and there! The unusual conditions mean that there are few car thefts of course, but there are more burglaries and robberies. We are aware of the black spots for crime and patrol them more often. The incidence of theft is high; the most troublesome time to be on shift is between 3pm and 11. There are regularly three or four reports of theft during that shift.
At one time there was also a lot of drugs – all completely open again, both in terms of selling and manufacturing. Packets were sold in the streets. I believe there’s still some of that going on. As policemen, we can’t just barge into people’s premises, but we pass on information that we hear and leave it to the Narcotics Bureau to sort out. They operate there as well.
There used to be close contact between the police and people inside the City, including those who had special connections. The younger policemen nowadays don’t have much of a clue about this. The people who hold the power in the Walled City are the Chiu Chows. There was this one guy in particular, Chan Sup, the ‘big brother’ of the Sun Yee On Triad. He died recently and there have since been lots of fights between those carving up his interests. I quite respected Chan; we knew each other and he was kind of loyal to his friends and those he knew well.
Things used to operate differently in those days. When a problem needed sorting out, we asked for the ‘big brother’ and he would promise to do something to fix the matter. Working with some of the criminal elements in the City, we could usually settle quite a few problems. Occasionally we didn’t even need to go into the City to get things done. Take, for example, some of our drug-busting. Whenever it became necessary, we’d inform people inside that things needed to be done and the police would get their guy. At other times, we’d feel quite helpless. Methods that worked outside the City might not always apply inside.
You could say that some Triad groups had their origins inside the Walled City – groups like the Sun Yee On and 14K. It’s true also that some policemen were on the take, but since the setting up of the ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption] that’s pretty much stopped. The City had fabulous pieces of what we call ‘fat pork’ and, in the past, the police did things very differently. They had their own groups and factions that were responsible for the area. There might still be a little of it going on. I can’t tell for sure.
We used to find quite a few illegal immigrants working in the factories. Like the criminals, they tried to claim the Walled City was Chinese territory and that they were immune from arrest. At times, the factory owners themselves informed us of such immigrants so as to avoid paying them. That’s human nature, I suppose!
It took 36 hours for Government officials to register all the residents and housing units following the announcement of the clearance. Actually, on the evening after the announcement, dozens of lorries brought furniture and other things back to the City and some people tried to offer us a pay-off to testify that they had been a resident for a certain length of time! But by then the City had been sealed off.
How did I like working in the Walled City? I have to admit I enjoyed my time there – I got to see and understand things you don’t find elsewhere in Hong Kong, like opium dens with people lying on the floor smoking. I saw them but couldn’t do anything. I also got on well with the residents – I even played mahjong with them sometimes.”

[url=][img=512,335][/img][/url]Contrary to popular belief, the City has been patrolled since the early 1950s.

[url=][img=512,337][/img][/url]The patrols traversed every part of the City, even the rooftops.

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                                                                                     IN PRAISE OF OPIUM                                            [url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]Smoking opium in Hong Kong in the 1950s

Cathie Breslin, author of the article The World’s Wickedest City (see below), was not the only journalist to enter the Walled City in its early years to taste – and write about – the delights or otherwise of opium. Breslin had visited the City in 1963 and was not taken with her experience of smoking opium, but five years earlier she had been preceded by a British journalist, Lois Mitchison, who had found the drug much more to her liking.
She recounted her experiences in an article for The Spectator, published in May 1958.

“The first time I smoked opium was with Hank, the American news-film photographer, in Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong. Hank had all his cameras with him; and an interpreter who asked first in a whisper, then in a loud voice, in Cantonese, wouldn’t somebody, anybody, sitting round in the street please be good enough to tell him where he could find some opium for the rich foreigners? There was plenty of opium about; we could smell it, a rich, rather pleasant and homely smell like overdone cinnamon toast for tea. But most people didn’t want to tell us any thing because of Hank’s cameras.
Hank’s cameras, although the interpreter shouted that they were not, might have been police cameras. Hong Kong is a British colony and smoking opium is illegal there as it is in Britain, only a lot more people do it. But in Hong Kong itself they do it very carefully, and mostly only in private houses. Kowloon Walled City is a little different.
Kowloon is the industrial suburb of Hong Kong with 30 miles of farming country between it and the Chinese border. The Walled City is in the middle of the rest of Kowloon and ten minutes bus ride in double-decked, scarlet London buses from the harbour. But it is unlike anywhere else in the colony. It was the old city of Kowloon – there when the British first leased the New Territories, across from the original island of Hong Kong, in 1898. The country and villages all round the Walled City became British on a 99-year lease, but the City itself was to remain Chinese territory as long as the Chinese in the city behaved themselves. In a few months the British said the Chinese were not behaving themselves, and we took over the city. But successive Chinese governments have never agreed that we had any right to do this, and both Kuomintang and the present Communists nudge us about our imperialist usurpations when they want to tease the Hong Kong government.
The result is that the Hong Kong government is shy about the city. Uniformed police do not generally go there, and most laws are not strictly enforced. The laws you are most conscious of as not being enforced are the colony’s sanitary regulations. After the broad, fairly clean streets of the Kowloon markets round the city, the city itself is filthy. The streets are so narrow that in the main ones you can stretch out your hands and touch the house walls on either side., and in the alleys you walk sideways, or move backwards in front of men carrying shoulder-yoked pails of night soil. All the streets have gutters of mixed sewage and household muck running down them. In the main street the children play in the gutter, and the grown-ups sit outside on small stools, gossiping, spitting, cleaning the vegetables for their evening meal, or just staring.
It was these people our interpreter asked about opium. After a while, a small, very thin man came up and said in English that he was from San Francisco, and he could arrange everything for us very quickly, very cheaply. Did we want to see a blue film, he said, a girlie show, or perhaps we wanted to eat dog? He meant this literally; the stew made from six-month-old Chow puppies, according to the traditional Chinese recipe, is one of the main reasons why ordinary Chinese go into the Walled City. It used to be a perfectly respectable dish in all good Hong Kong restaurants, until one day the wife of the English governor heard about it, and badgered her husband until he had dog-eating made illegal in the colony.
We said the only thing we wanted to do was to smoke opium. So the man from San Francisco, who now said his name was Joe, took us off the main street to a corner with a dentist’s sign above it. He knocked at the door and took us upstairs. The smoking room was like the others I saw later, furnished with wooden bunks built close together one above the other, and crowded with a lot of poorish-looking men, most of them gossiping gently with each other and a few reading Chinese newspapers. The atmosphere was like an eccentrically furnished and scented club.
Joe turned everybody out before we could stop him and opened a window, because, he said, the place needed some fresh air. But Hank wanted to film actual opium smoking, and he asked me to smoke a pipe or so for him. Joe showed me how to put a small wooden pillow under my neck so that I was propped up on the bunk. We were given a small pill-box of brown ointment-like opium, and Joe forced a little of it into the bowl of a miniature pipe, which I had to hold over a spirit lamp until the opium bubbled and almost melted, and then draw the smoke into my lungs in quick puffs. It was difficult to manage at first, and after I had tried four pipes, Joe took over and finished the pill-box while Hank took his film. Opium, Joe said, was not at all a good habit, but it was his habit – and his reason for leaving San Francisco. Opium, he said, had been too expensive there, ten American dollars a pipe.
In the Walled City it was very cheap. After we had finished our pill-box, we gave the man who kept the smoking room five Hong Kong dollars (about seven shillings and sixpence) because we had disturbed his customers. These men were regulars who dropped in most evenings for two, three, or four pipes, paying a few Hong Kong cents a week. The smoking-room keeper’s main expense, he said, was the 87 dollars he paid the Hong Kong police every month. It was too much, he said; and the police had wolf-hearts. He bought his opium with, he said, no trouble at all from what was smuggled into the colony. It was not, Joe said afterwards, very good opium, probably Indian grown. In fact he thought this particular smoking-room keeper mixed it with horse dung to make it go further. But anyway good opium, smuggled in from Laos and Upper Thailand, is much more difficult to get, more expensive, and mostly smoked by wealthy and fastidious men giving business parties.
Later I went back to the Walled City about four times with people who wanted to see the smoking dens. We went to different places each time, and the only time there was any difficulty about finding a place to go was when we took a Hong Kong Englishman who spoke Cantonese and wore knee-length woollen socks and white shorts. Americans and most Chinese in hot climates wear long linen trousers. Everybody in the Walled City thought the Englishman must be a police spy, and nobody would show us a smoking place until he went away.
I found that opium always had the same, most pleasant effect on me. I felt enormously self confident, very happy (like the pleasantest effects of drink) and then very hungry. I never felt at all dreamy or as if I was seeing visions, but I did feel after four pipes that I was walking six inches above the ground, and I found unexpected beauty in the rush of Kowloon traffic. The hunger never failed, and I think the enormous Chinese meals I used to eat after smoking accounted for the one time I felt slightly sick four hours later.
It is nearly two years since I last smoked, and I never felt any particular craving for opium. But if somebody offered me a pipe now, I would just as soon spend a free evening smoking as reading a woman’s magazine or going to the cinema. It can, I know, be a dangerous habit. Joe, like other strongly addicted opium smokers, was so thin that his clothes seemed to be falling off him, and smoking left him, not hungry as it left me, but unwilling and unable to eat. Another Chinese I knew in Hong Kong – American and British educated – had to get up at seven o’clock in the morning if he had a lunch engagement. He could not begin work or talk to people until he had his five hours of opium smoking first. Other opium smokers leave their jobs and spend all the money they have on their drugs. Both Singapore and Hong Kong have private temples, as well as the official British-run cures and prison hospitals where Chinese addicts can go for a voluntary cure.
On the other hand the club I stayed at in Hong Kong had an old reporter living there who could not keep his lunch engagement unless he started drinking whisky at 8 o’clock in the morning – and whisky is much more expensive than opium and seems to have a more unpleasant effect on its addicts. Also more than half my friends cannot work unless they can smoke at the same time. Opium, so the Chinese told me, does not excite people to crime, or to beat their wives or to shout. Moreover, so the educated opium addict I knew said, it does not give people lung cancer.”

[url=][img=512,696][/img][/url]Lois Mitchison went on to write numerous books about China that were translated into several languages

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                                                                                     A BOY’S OWN ADVENTURE                                            [url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]The triad and opium room at the HK Police Museum

A publisher of poetry and a prolific poet and author in his own right, the British born writer Martin Booth spent most of his school years in Hong Kong, arriving as a seven year old in June 1952 after his father had been posted there to take up an administrative role in the Royal Navy.
An only child of parents whose marriage was slowly disintegrating, the young Martin was left very much to his own devices, and within weeks he was spending much of his spare time out and about on the streets of Kowloon, making friends with the local shopkeepers and rickshaw drivers, and quickly learning more than enough Cantonese to get by.
Precocious and highly inquisitive, he was soon wandering over large areas of Tsim Sha Tsui and Yau Ma Tei from his parents’ lodgings in the Four Seasons’ Hotel, but towards the end of 1953 the family was reassigned to an apartment on Boundary Street, across on the eastern side of the Kowloon peninsula.
Warned by his mother, within a few days of arriving there, that on no account was he to go near the Kowloon Walled City, Martin of course made it his business to immediately go and check out what this mysterious place might be and, over the next few months, he made several visits, being introduced to different parts of the City by two characters who befriended him there, Ho and Lau.
Returning to the UK in 1964, Martin continued to travel in Europe and the USA as well as the Far East as his literary career took off and established itself, but as he himself noted: “It had never been my intention to write an autobiography. To do so smacked of arrogance: it was not as if I were a rock star, an explorer, a footballer or a member of the miscreant aristocracy. It is true that I have had an interesting and remarkably lucky life, but that is far from unique and I never thought to document it.”
But in 2002, at the insistence of his children following the diagnosis of an especially malignant form of brain tumour, he decided he would “tackle the task” of writing about his childhood. “Once I had set out upon the task, the past began to unfold – perhaps it is better to say unravel – before me. I did have some assistance in the form of a scrapbook and several photograph albums my mother had compiled, yet these did not so much prompt as confirm certain memories, flesh out anecdotes that have spun in mind for years, rekindle lost names and put faces to them.”
The book that resulted is the highly regarded and much loved ‘Gweilo : a memoir of a Hong Kong childhood’, which he was able to complete shortly before the tumour finally claimed his life in February 2004. The following extracts recount his memories of visiting some of the more unusual places in the Walled City.

[url=][img=512,368][/img][/url]A triad meeting room in the 1950s

“We walked on. Suddenly, Lau stopped and said, “You no like other gweilo boy.” For the first time, he touched my hair. “Now I show you good place.”
Our destination was the balustrade building I had visited on my first excursion into the Walled City. We entered it, passed through the downstairs room, still devoid of occupants although I could hear the noise of snoring emanating from upstairs, went behind the screen, out through a door into what might have been a flagstoned courtyard and down some steps to a semi-cellar about thirty feet square. At the bottom of the steps was an old wooden door secured by a large padlock. Lau produced the key and we entered. There was a small table in the centre of the room, the walls of which were lined by benches similar to those used for gym lessons in the KJC school hall. Upon the walls hung various pennants and banners in red with serrated black borders and black writing upon them. Opposite the door was an altar bearing a small idol of a male god with a fierce-looking face, one candle alight before it.
“God Kwan Ti,” Lau explained. “This is my god.”
Yet it was something other than the banners and Kwan Ti that caught my eye. Hung between the banners were macabre, sadistically ferocious-looking weapons. One was a chain with a ball set with spikes at one end; another chain culminated in a spear-point blade. Balancing in a wooden rack were a number of metal six-pointed stars of varying diameters. From their shine, the points were clearly well sharpened.
“What is this place?” I enquired. Lau made no attempt to explain but said, “Gweilo no come here. You vew’y lucky boy I show you.”

[url=][img=512,768][/img][/url]A shrine from a triad meeting room

As we moved through the big room in the building, a boy of about my age descended the stairs carrying a tray upon which there was a small lamp, several minute bowls, a number of metal needles and the most bizarre pipe. My grandfather always smoked a simple-looking Dunhill with a wooden bowl; my father, on occasion, smoked a swan-necked Meerschaum. This was very different. A good fifteen inches long, the stem was made of bamboo, the mouthpiece on milky-coloured jade or soapstone. The bowl was a curious device for it had nowhere that I could see in which to put the tobacco; indeed, it appeared to be a virtually sealed container. All there was in it was a tiny hole in the top.
“Nga pin [opium]?” I asked tentatively.
Lau stared at me. “How you know nga pin?”
“I know,” I shrugged, still not knowing exactly what it was.
He took me by the hand and led me up the stairs. “No talk,” he whispered. As my head rose above the first-floor level, I saw half a dozen men lying on the kangs [beds]. All but one were asleep on their sides, their hands tucked between their drawn-up legs or under their necks. One snored, another intermittently moaned softly, the only other sound was their breathing. The air had a strange and familiar perfume and it was at least a minute before I recognised it as the scent of the rickshaw coolies’ pipes on my first night in Hong Kong.
The man who was awake had by his head one of the little lamps, the flame contained within a thick glass funnel. The boy moved past us, giving me a quick and puzzled look. He went to the man and impaled a small bead of something on one of the needles, starting to revolve it in the lamp flame: then, very adroitly, he placed it over the tiny hole in the pipe bowl, passing it to the man who lay on his side and sucked evenly on the pipe. After doing this three times, the man lay down and closed his eyes. The boy removed the pipe and blew out the lamp.
“We go,” Lau murmured. Once we were outside, I asked, “what was that man doing?” “He smoke opium,” Lau answered. “Get dream, go good time-side.”

[url=][img=512,333][/img][/url]Smoking opium in the 1950s

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]Opium pipes from the HK Police Museum collection

I stepped over the characteristic high lintel to find myself in a small entrance hall. To one side, seated at a tiny desk, was an old woman. Lau greeted her and they spoke in quiet voices until Lau stepped aside to reveal my presence. The moment she saw me, the woman cackled asthmatically and entered into a conversation with Lau that was filled with much suppressed hilarity and sidelong glances at me.
Feeling I was being made the butt of their humour, and not quite knowing how to react, I looked down. It was then I saw the old woman’s feet projecting out from under the desk. They were minute, encased in scuffed brocade slippers no bigger than a baby’s knitted bootees. The toe end was squared off like the ballet dancing pumps girls wore at school.
“Lotus foot,” Lau said, following my line of sight. “Long time before, China-side, men say tiny foot on lady ve’y . . .” he paused, searching for a word “. . . booty full. Like lotus flower.” I nodded sagely but could not see how, with the wildest imagination, a foot could resemble a flower.
After the obligatory caress of my golden hair by the old woman Lau led me down a corridor of dark wooden panelling, passing a number of narrow doors split like those of a stable. At intervals, dim bulbs provided the minimum of light. Towards the end of the passage-way, Lau stopped at a door and knocked. The top half opened and a pretty Chinese woman looked out. She wore an imperial yellow silk cheongsam, her hair piled up and held in place by a soapstone pin. As they spoke in subdued voices, she did not take her eyes off me for an instant. Needless to say, she reached out to touch my head.
There was the sound of a pulling bolt and the bottom half of the door opened to reveal a panelled cubicle lit by a red lamp in front of a tiny shrine. The only furniture was a wide kang raised higher than normal from the floor and a Chinese-style chair. Upon the kang were a tangle of quilts and a Chinese paperback book on the cover of which were portrayed a man and a woman kissing. On a shelf below the shrine was a row of Chinese scent bottles. “You go in,” Lau instructed. “Sit down.”
I perched on the rim of the kang. The young woman sat next to me, talking to Lau through the door but all the while watching me. The air – and the young woman – smelt of orange blossom slightly tainted with sweat.
“You know this place?” Lau enquired at length. “No know,” I admitted. “This old place,” Lau continued. “Maybe more one hundred year. Long time before place for rich man come jig-a-jig. Fam’us place. Man come long way from Canton jig-a-jig here. Fam’us girl stayed here long time before.” To lend meaning to his words, he put his thumb between his index and middle finger and wiggled it. The young woman giggled. I was lost as to its meaning. “You lo know jig-a-jig?” Lau asked. I shook my head. “Lo ploblum,” he replied dismissively. “Come! We go now.” He said goodbye to the young woman. I added my own choi kin. She burst into a peal of giggles, put her hand demurely to her mouth to stifle them and closed the doors on us.
Whenever I visited Kowloon Walled City, Lau was always there, ready to guide me around, drink tea with me and talk. When, after a few months, the place started to lose its appeal and I stopped visiting. I never saw him again. It was some years before I realised that he and Ho had been Triad members – Chinese Mafiosi – infamous for their utter ruthlessness, whose secret fraternity ran the opium dens and brothels, and held Kowloon Walled City in its thrall. The semi-subterranean room had been their meeting place.

[url=][img=512,415][/img][/url]A gambling house and brothel in Kowloon City in 1898

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                                                                                     THE WICKEDEST CITY                                            [url=][img=512,449][/img][/url]

Searching through the numerous files to be found in Hong Kong’s Public Records Office, either real or on microfilm, that refer to the Walled City can easily become addictive. Every folder seemed to turn up some fascinating detail or, as in this case, a long lost article that probably hasn’t seen the light of day in over 50 years.
Written by a young American journalist, Cathie Breslin, and published in the Toronto-based magazine The Daily Star in November 1963, the article recounted Breslin’s visit to the Walled City in search of an opium den. Raised in Massachusetts, the daughter of a pediatrician, Breslin had graduated from the University of Toronto in 1957 as a history and philosophy major before opting to try her hand as a journalist.
Horrified by, in her own words, the “sexual ghetto” of Canadian journalism at that time, where she was “flung onto the women’s pages”, Breslin decided to go freelance, working in Canada and the USA for a few years before leaving for Southeast Asia in 1961. She was to remain there for the next two years, travelling round the whole region including Vietnam, saying later that, “the war at that time was almost fun … Vietnam wasn’t really cranked up yet.” This was clearly no ordinary young American ingénue.

[url=][img=512,365][/img][/url]Two of Eddy Chan’s photographs from the article

Entering the Walled City with Chinese photographer Eddie Chan, they met an opium addict they refer to in the article as Cheng who agreed to help them on their quest, taking them to his home while he made the necessary arrangements:
“Cheng’s smooth, boyish face belies 40 troubled years. A former Nationalist policeman turned narcotics hustler, he has worked ‘in this business’ since coming to Hong Kong 14 years ago. His job entails sizeable risk, but only pays 80 cents a day. Plus 16 cents for ‘lunch’.
An hour later Cheng went off to fetch the opium. His plump, pretty wife arrived home with her two small sons. Cheng returned with a friend, Lai, their arms loaded with newspaper-wrapped bundles, and ordered his wife and children into the alley. He had bought a new $5 pipe for the occasion – so cheaply made that he had to bind it together with a strip of silk. He complained that they don’t make them now the way they did in ‘the old days’, when opium represented gracious living in China.
The pipe assembled and the peanut-oil lamp lit, Cheng grabbed two large cans to serve as pillows. He and Lai stretched out on the linoleum bed and began the intricate rite: they sizzled the ‘cooked’ opium on top of the lamp, smeared it on the rim of the pipe’s rubber bowl and scraped off the blistered ash. The babble from the alley seemed to fade as Lai took whistling pulls on the pipe.
Since coming to Hong Kong I had wanted to try this forbidden ritual. I tapped Eddie on the shoulder: ‘Can I try a puff?’ Startled, he translated. Cheng scrambled off the bed and gave me his place and pipe. ‘What do I do now?’ I asked Eddie. ‘Just smoke it like a cigarette.’ Although I smoke I don’t inhale. When my big moment came I drew in mightily; I seemed to be pulling smoke to the bottom of my lungs. I went dizzy from sheer effort.
If everybody got as little a kick as I did from an opium smoke, Hong Kong would have an enormous problem solved. Government surveys reveal that the majority of Hong Kong’s estimated quarter-million narcotics addicts are middle-aged, low-salaried workers looking for relief from the ‘stresses of their everyday lives’. Lai is typical. An ex-fruit peddler, he has smoked for 15 years. He stopped once when he realised it was killing him, but a stomach ailment drove him to start again. ‘When I smoke,’ he says, ‘I feel no more pain and I can smile again.’ Now unemployed, he hires himself out to tend the pipes of more affluent smokers and smokes up their leftovers.”

[url=][img=512,504][/img][/url]Smoking opium in Hong Kong in the 1950s

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                                                                                     AN UNEASY ALLIANCE                                            [url=][img=512,392][/img][/url]
Orange Urban Services refuse bins were located around the City and collected nightly.

The idea that to enter the Walled City was to enter a totally different world where all the norms and regulations of ordinary urban life were entirely absent is deep-rooted and almost impossible to shake. To this day, many people believe that the police never went there, or that if they did it was in only in groups of 40 or more. And against this background, it seems inconceivable that any of the other government departments would have had any sort of involvement at all with the City.
But as the official document below shows, nothing could be further from the truth. The City could not have survived for long without the modern conveniences that the rest of us take for granted – notably electricity and a safe water supply, but there were a whole host of other less noticeable incursions by the authorities that helped keep the City running safely and, more or less, efficiently.
This report was written in 1969 and served pretty much as a template until the City’s demolition in 1993. Government involvement with the Walled City may have been kept at arm’s length and never officially recognised, but as you can see that never meant it didn’t happen.



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                                                                                     A CLINIC FOR HEROIN                                            [url=][img=512,344][/img][/url]

In the process of putting this new edition together we have interviewed a number of policeman who patrolled in the Walled City from as far back as the 1960s right up to the City’s clearance in the early 1990s. Their testimony has been enlightening and puts quite a different perspective on just how lawless or otherwise the City might have been at different times in its development.
Indeed, all of those we interviewed were keen to emphasise that, from the early 1960 onwards at least, the City was little different to other working class areas of Hong Kong. We are only sorry that we haven’t been able to track down any police officers who may have patrolled there in the 1950s, when by all accounts the Walled City really did live up to its reputation. If anyone reading this does know of such a person, we would love to hear from them. See BE INVOLVED under ‘The Book’ section for contact details.
None of this is to say that the Walled City didn’t have its moments and one of the more unusual stories that came to light while talking to one particular policeman who served there in the late 1970s was his memories of what he described as heroin clinics. The timing is important, as this occurred just a few years after the formation of the ICAC (the Independent Commission Against Corruption), which had clamped down heavily on both the Triad’s operations and corruption in the police force.
This resulted in the Walled City becoming once more an important centre for drug dealing. Such activity had never been eradicated from the City. Indeed, it was one of the few places where the very worst addicts could eke out some sort of existence without too much interference. The ordinary residents didn’t particularly approve of their presence, but for the most part they were ignored. In this, the City was not alone and there were several other locations in Hong Kong well known to the police where such activity went on.
In the late 1970s, however, there was a noticeable rise in drug dealing that the police were keen to bring under control. The problem, as always, was catching drug dealers in the act. The few entrances into the City made it impossible to enter without being spotted, and once inside it was all too easy for the perpetrators to disappear into the maze of alleys and stairways. Not so the addicts, however, who became an important source of information for the police when planning future operations.
There was one important catch however: addicts could only be arrested and taken in for questioning if they were actually caught carrying drugs. Being an addict alone was not enough. Aware of this the Triad operators, safe in the knowledge that the Walled City provided ideal cover, came up with the simple plan of rather than just selling addicts small packets of heroin, they would spread the word and open a temporary ‘clinic’ where the addicts could queue for their ‘shot’ and then leave, carrying nothing.
By the time the police realised what was going on and had gathered in sufficient numbers to carry out a raid, those involved had almost invariably left the scene. The two photographs shown here were taken from surrounding roofs as part of a surveillance operation and show a clinic in action (above), as well some of the lookouts (below) guarding one of the nearby alleys.
As an interesting aside, it is important to note that police raids of this sort were almost always carried out in sufficient numbers to ensure that as many of the escape routes could be covered as possible. As such, their presence was far more noticeable than the ordinary two-man foot patrols – whose presence was so common as to be unremarked upon – and one can only speculate if this is what led many to believe that the police only entered the Walled City in large numbers. This, it seems, is how myths are born.

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                                                                                     A LEGEND IS BORN                                            [url=][img=512,352][/img][/url]
An opium den in Hong Kong in the 1950s.

The failed attempt to clear the Walled City of squatters in 1947 left the Hong Kong authorities in a quandary. Before the War the Hong Kong government had felt they could act with impunity, actually evicting several pig farmers from the City’s confines in the 1930s. The Kuomintang government had raised its objections, but the situation in China was so confused that the powers to be in Hong Kong felt these could be safely ignored.
By 1947 this was no longer the case. The severe deprivations Hong Kong had experienced during the War had taken their toll and the ease with which the Japanese had been able to occupy the city in 1941 had shaken the authorities’ confidence. The situation in China was also changing rapidly, with Mao Tse Tung and his communist forces on the rise, though what his intentions might be, in particular with regard to Hong Kong, remained a mystery.
The flood of refugees into the territory through 1948 and 1949 was soon giving the Hong Kong government more to worry about than the Walled City, but until the situation in China had resolved itself they had already decided that caution was the better part of valour and that no further action would be taken in the Walled City that might cause the authorities in China to object. And when this came down to the issue of dual jurisdiction, this would include police activities there and, more importantly, prosecution of those who broke the law.
The Hong Kong authorities were keenly aware that if they attempted to prosecute anyone arrested for a crime within the City, this potentially opened the door for the Chinese government to step in and claim equal rights, possibly demanding that a Chinese court be set up inside the City. It is doubtful this was on the Chinese government’s mind at the time, but the decision was made that for the time being at least no-one arrested in the City would be charged with any form of criminal offence.

Covering letter to the 1955 report, detailing the concerns about taking Walled City residents to court.

The police would continue to patrol the area and arrests would be made, but apart from a night or two in the cells and the confiscation of illegal materials, most notably drugs and drug paraphernalia, no further action would be taken. Some minor cases were prosecuted through the civil courts and the most serious offenders, usually known Triad bosses, were repatriated to China, but otherwise the Walled City’s residents were largely left to their own devices. Unsurprisingly, this state of affairs did not go unnoticed and soon Triad gangs were flocking to the City, keen to set up any illegal operation they could think of.
Unlike their mafia and camorra counterparts in the West, the Triads have no real central structure and for the most part are made up of a loose alliance of individual street gangs that claim allegiance to one Triad or another. Power within the Walled City was split roughly between the 14K and Sun Yee On factions which, when they were not fighting each other, tended to be involved mainly in low-level criminal enterprises, notably protection rackets, control of the sex industries and ‘street-corner’ drug dealing.
With the minimum of police interference, such activities boomed, with one police report, drawn up in 1955 in response to questions raised by the Foreign Office in London, noting the presence as early as 1952 of 154 drug divans, seven gambling dens, 13 dog meat shops, 11 brothels and one theatre giving two striptease performances per day. If nothing else, not only does the report confirm that the police were patrolling the City, but more importantly that they had a pretty detailed knowledge of what was happening there.
And indeed attempts were made to try and bring the situation under control, but the maze-like layout of the City, an alert band of lookouts and, no doubt, tip-offs from within the police force itself, meant large-scale raids almost always arrived too late after most of the participants had left, leaving only a smattering of comatose opium addicts and a few older prostitutes who were too slow on their feet. Drugs and the apparatus of opium smoking were confiscated and certain properties were closed, but the Triads considered this a small price to pay and operations could always continue in another location almost without a break.


The 1955 police report gives an unrivalled glimpse of what life was like in the Walled City at the time.

And so the situation continued. By the nature of the times, too, in some quarters the Walled City took on an almost glamorous quality, with the film stars of the time arriving in smart cars which were left parked on Tung Tau Tsuen Road while their occupants disappeared into the City to taste dog meat or other delights. The Triads also proved adept at adapting to prevailing trends. The same 1955 report notes a sudden surge in striptease parlours when the Walled City started becoming a recognised stop for Japanese sex tourists keen to see what Hong Kong had to offer.
But the times were changing and the heyday of Triad control in the Walled City was soon on the wane. And not so much because the police were managing to gain a degree of control, but rather because corruption within the police force was becoming so endemic that the Triad gangs no longer needed to hide away in Hong Kong’s darker corners, but rather could operate in the open in the parts of town where more money could be made. There would still be some crime in the Walled City – sometimes more, sometimes less – but the total freedom that the Triads had enjoyed there for that brief period would never be matched.
For a time, though, the Walled City really could have been described as a den on iniquity, and it was a vision that the City was never able to escape. The times changed but the myth lived on.

Contrary to popular belief, daily police patrols were a regular part of City life from the 1950s onward.
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                                                                                     SETTING THE SCENE                                            [url=][img=512,369][/img][/url]
The Walled City seen from White Crane Hill in 1865.

The root of the Walled City’s curious legal status can be traced back to the 1898 Treaty of Peking that ceded the land that came to be known as the New Territories to the British on a 99-year lease. From the Chinese perspective, this was yet another unequal treaty that was being forced upon them, but they were unwilling to give in without a fight and they demanded that the military and magistrate’s compound, known in English rather misleadingly as Kowloon Walled City, which stood at the foot of White Crane Hill overlooking Kowloon Bay and neighbouring Kowloon City should remain Chinese Territory.
Rather grudgingly the British, wanting to settle the matter as quickly as possible, agreed to include a clause stating that “within the city of Kowloon, the Chinese officials now stationed there shall continue to exercise jurisdiction except so far as may be inconsistent with the military requirement to the defence of Hong Kong”. It was a gloriously vague phrase and within a year, when the Chinese garrison in the Walled City was reinforced by a further 600 troops in response to fierce resistance to British rule in the New Territories, the Hong Kong government decided enough was enough and marched on the City only to find it already deserted. To validate the situation, an Order-in-Council was issued in December 1899, announcing British jurisdiction over the Walled City, but as a unilateral revision to the Treaty it was never recognised by the Chinese.

Lung Chun Pier and the ceremonial entrance to Kowloon City in 1898.

In reality, little of this mattered. The Walled City was now a deserted compound deep in the New Territories’ countryside, then a long way from the built-up areas to the south on the Kowloon Peninsula. And with the Chinese government largely in turmoil over the next 40 years, the Hong Kong authorities felt they could do with the Walled City as they wished, to the extent that in the 1930s they evicted the pig farmers who had taken the place over and turned it into a tourist spot. But all was about to change.
The Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in December 1941 and the subsequent occupation, unsurprisingly, affected all of Hong Kong badly, but the impact was especially notable around Kowloon City. The part of Kowloon Bay which Kowloon City once overlooked had been reclaimed in 1923 as part of a failed business venture, the Hong Kong government taking back control of the land in 1925 and establishing Kai Tak Airport. Expansion of the airport in the 1930s had begun to change the area, but when the Japanese took over Kai Tak as its military airfield in 1941, the rate of change escalated rapidly.

The Walled City and Kowloon City in 1924, shortly after completion of the reclamation that was to become Kai Tak Airport.

A good part of old Kowloon City overlooking the airport was demolished and the walls of the Walled City were torn down for use as building material during the airport’s subsequent expansion. Allied bombing caused yet more damage, virtually obliterating what was left of old Kowloon City, though somehow sparing the few old Walled City buildings that still existed. And so it remained, the rubble left by the fighting providing handy building material as those Hong Kong residents displaced during the War began to return to Hong Kong at the end of 1945, quickly followed by the first of the refugees fleeing the civil war in China.
The situation for the Hong Kong authorities was now extremely complicated. Efforts were made to start rebuilding Kowloon City in a new area to the west of its old location, around a grid of streets that remain to this day, but the demand for shelter far outstripped supply and squatter settlements began to spring up all over the hills at the back of Kowloon and more importantly around and within Kowloon Walled City.
Fearing they might lose control of the area, in 1947 the authorities took the unprecedented step of trying to deter building on the Walled City site itself and evict those who had already moved into the area, but the operation was badly handled, resulting in significant resistance. More importantly, it also provoked rioting across the border in Canton (Guangzhou), with the British Mission there being set on fire. The Chinese government voiced it strongest objection to this unwanted action on Chinese soil, and the Hong Kong authorities were forced to withdraw its plans and leave the City to its own devices.
Despite the 1899 Order-in-Council claiming British jurisdiction over the area, it was clear that the Walled City would henceforward be subject to dual jurisdiction, with all the uncertainties and restrictions that would entail. Even so, few at that time could imagine just how quickly this situation would take over every aspect of the Walled City’s growth and development in the years to come.

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sun 發表於 2016-5-23 14:27

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What do the Bourne Supremacy, ‘manga’ comics, Batman Begins and Call of Duty: Black Ops have in common? Well, believe it or not, all of them have been influenced by the Walled City – both its myths and its reality – demonstrating just how far this remarkable community has been embraced by popular culture worldwide, despite – or maybe because of – its demolition some 20 years ago. Find out more below.

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Japan has long had a particular fascination with the Walled City. The photographer Ryuji Miyamoto produced his own book of black and white photographs of the City in 1992, and architect Takayuki Suzuki joined forces with publisher Suzushi Kuwabara to produce their magnificent book ‘Large-scale Illustrated Kowloon City’, featuring a magnificent cross-section of the City drawn by Hitomi Terasawa. Sadly, although Hitomi allowed us to reproduce the section in the book, she was adamant that we could not include it here on this website, although images of it can be found via any search of Kowloon Walled City images.
Perhaps the most extraordinary homage to the Walled City is to be found at ‘Kawasaki Warehouse’, an eight-storey office and games arcade owned by a games company and located in Kawasaki between Tokyo and Yokohama. Opened in 2009, the ‘amusement park’ arcade that stretches across the building’s lower three floors features a wide range of attractions from old-fashioned arcade games and darts, billiards and table tennis, to the very latest player-participation video games. The Walled City is the captivating backdrop for much of the complex, recreated down to the last grimy detail, including the dilapidated structures, twisted wiring, accurately reproduced graffiti and even original post boxes and garbage all sourced from Hong Kong.

[url=][img=512,344][/img][/url]Even the outside of the building has been given the distressed look.

The man behind the lifelike replica is Taishiro Hoshino, an art director with a background in kabuki theatre. He started the process by making intricate small-scale models, after which his talented team of craftsmen created almost every detail and nuance from scratch. Hoshino noted: “What we thought indispensable in order to reproduce and reconstruct the legendary Kowloon Walled City were those signs that fill up the entire City and the varieties of numberless poster on the walls without any spaces left between them. These things are not available in Tokyo of course, therefore there was nothing we could do but make everything from the beginning.”
They also rummaged around for all kinds of memorabilia – Bruce Lee movie posters, old TVs, cheap Chinese chinaware, fluorescent signs, birdcages, electric fans, period calendars and so on – to flesh out the elaborate tableaux, like a sprawling set from an epic movie. One of the key elements of the reconstruction was making everything look old and distressed. That was the genius of Hoshino’s specialist team of artists and painters, as he explained: “Each part of the wall is made in the finest detail, but more than that its finish is so dense and outstanding that it gives the sense of its smell and humidity by using our secret super ageing techniques.”
As the photographs and the short video included here demonstrate, the end result is truly remarkable.

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]A two-storey recreation of the Walled City surrounds the cafeteria and rest area.

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]All the set dressing, even the old laundry, was sourced in Hong Kong.

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]The cafeteria and rest area at the lower level.

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]All the surrounding walls are given the ‘Walled City’ look, even the lift lobbies.

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]The entrance corridor plunges you straight into the Walled City atmosphere.

[url=][img=512,341][/img][/url]Even the signs and wall stickers were imported from Hong Kong.

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The Walled City’s influence on and appearances in both Hong Kong-produced and international films is long and illustrious, hardly surprising for a location that provides such rich and unforgettable visuals as well as the mystique of a place ideal for all sorts of criminal goings on. A few years after the reprinted softback edition of City of Darkness first appeared – in 1999 or thereabouts – there was a sudden flurry of sales through a Los Angeles bookseller which, it turned out, was down to the book being discovered by Hollywood’s many production designers, and it can be found in many of the British studios’ reference libraries too.
Echoes of the Walled City can therefore be found in any number of films portraying one form of dystopian future or another, perhaps most notably in Batman Begins where the Walled City was directly cited as a source. Asked in an interview, in June 2005, what had been the inspiration for the look of Gotham City, the film’s director Christopher Nolan replied: “When Nathan Crowley, my production designer, started discussing the look of the film with me, we immediately rejected any reductive notions. … [We looked] at interesting geographical features of different cities of the world. A lot for New York, some from Chicago, a lot from Tokyo because of elevated freeways and monorails. From Hong Kong we took the Walled City of Kowloon [which] is the basis for The Narrows, which is this kind of walled-in slum. So what we really did was put together the elements that let you exaggerate all the socio-economic factors that feed into Gotham as an exaggeration of the modern American city.”
A sense of the Walled City’s ‘spirit’ can be glimpsed in this clip where Batman is set on fire when first coming across the Scarecrow in his lair within the Narrows, but it is the model made for distant views of The Narrows (subsequently shown stripped into CG-rendered images of Gotham’s skyline as above) that truly shows the Walled City’s influence.
But for a true feeling of what it was really like to be in the Walled City, one has to look at the some of films made in Hong Kong that were actually filmed there. The 1982 Shaw Brothers production Brothers from the Walled City might sound the most interesting of these, but is largely filmed at other locations that only bear a passing resemblance to the City proper, while part of the Jackie Chan film, Crime Story, was only filmed on the roof of the Walled City after it had been cleared of its residents. And to add insult to injury, it is used purely as a location for a fight scene that, according to the film’s plot, takes place in Taiwan and so has nothing to do with the Walled City at all.
Perhaps surprisingly then, only two films were actually shot within the confines of the Walled City, the Jean-Claude van Damme vehicle, Bloodsport, and the far superior Johnny Mak film, Long Arm of the Law. In fact, the Walled City and one of its alleys only make a short appearance in Bloodsport, when the Jean-Claude character and his Chinese minder are making their way to an illegal fighting venue supposedly located there. It does, however, include possibly one of the most excruciating lines of expositionary dialogue ever recorded on celluloid.
Far better all round, both as a film and for its views of the Walled City’s interior, is Johnny Mak’s Long Arm of the Law, the classic story of a robbery gone wrong with the robbers fleeing to the Walled City hoping, in vain as it turns out, to escape the chasing police force. Amazingly, the film’s entire denouement, the final 15 minutes or so of the movie, is actually filmed within the Walled City’s alleys and stairways – a technical achievement in itself, not to mention the interesting negotiations with local Triad leaders it must have involved. Unfortunately, Johnny Mak has since retired from film-making, much disheartened by not being able to make the films he wanted, and we were unable to track him down. We would love to talk to him if anybody knows how to contact him.
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It is interesting to note that, while it existed, the Walled City was almost universally shunned and avoided by the vast majority of Hong Kong’s population, and if it was spoken about at all it was always described, even by those who had never seen it (far less been there) as ‘a bad place’. And few Walled City residents would ever own up to living there.
In recent years all that has changed. More and more former residents will now talk about their time there, almost with pride, and young Hong Kongers especially are captivated by the many stories about the place, seeing it as an intriguing – even instructive – part of Hong Kong’s rich heritage perhaps, or like so many others just being caught up in the idea of a place of mystery where anything was possible.
Yu Wing Leung, better known as Yu-Yi, certainly falls into the latter camp. As a young child in the early 1980s he went to school near the Walled City, and even ventured into its alleys occasionally, though he confesses he remembers little of what he saw there. And he didn’t think of it much as he grew up to become a talented writer and illustrator of fantasy stories and ‘manga’ comics, usually involving incredibly dashing, heroic young men and either impossibly nubile or overly demure young girls.



As he described in an interview for this book: “My encounter with the Walled City can be described as amazing. I didn’t live near there, but I used to pass it on my way to school. I was quite interested in it, but I didn’t try to find out more. Then, when I was in Japan, I came across a book, the Japanese edition of City of Darkness, and I was fascinated by the photographs inside. After that I began to read stories about the Walled City and the more I read, the more I wanted to write about it – especially since the place hadn’t been written much about in Hong Kong. My thinking at that time was, if I was to publish my own book, I wanted it to be about to Hong Kong. I’ve always been interested by triad stories, too, reading a lot comics and watching a lot of movies about them. Since the Walled City is about triads, I wanted to see if I could combine both in my novel.”
Borrowing the title City of Darkness, the novel did fairly well, but it really made its mark when it was later converted by Yu-Yi into a weekly manga that eventually ran to 32 issues of 40 pages each. It proved an immediate hit, selling 20,000 copies a week, and Yu-Yi has gone on to produce an equally successful sequel since.
As can be seen by the pages included here, a good deal of the imagery, in the early editions especially, ‘borrowed’ heavily from the photographs he had seen in our edition of City of Darkness, but they have been reproduced so skillfully that both Greg and I take the view that imitation – when done this well at least – is the best form of flattery.


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                                                                                     99% INVISIBLE                                            Making its first appearance in San Francisco as a co-production between the KALW public radio station and the San Francisco branch of the AIA (American Institute of Architects), 99% Invisible has gone on to become one of the best and most listened to radio shows on design in the USA, broadcast on public radio right across the county as well as being available elsewhere as a downloadable podcast. (Visit for more information.)
In the own words of the programme’s award-winning creator and producer/presenter, Roman Mars, the show covers all aspects of “design, architecture and the 99 per cent invisible activity that shapes our world”. Now independently funded through public donations, most notably raised during a recent Kickstarter campaign, the show broadcast its 100th episode at the beginning of February 2014 and what has previously been a bi-weekly programme will from now on appear in weekly instalments.
In October 2013, co-producer Nick van der Kolk showed Roman Mars a photograph of the Walled City at the start of a programme all about the City, before going on to talk to the Hong Kong architect Aaron Tan, as well as to Brian Douglas – one of the co-designers behind the Kowloon Walled City section in the highly successful computer game Call of Duty: Black Ops – and to our very own Greg Girard. You can listen to the programme here.

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