Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kowloon Walled City

The Kowloon Walled City park  is a beautiful, green, serene park with waterfalls and fountains right at the edge of Hong Kong city, China.  It is difficult to imagine that  the park was once this.

This is an aerial view of the Kowloon Walled City before its demolition in 1993.  A pulsating, vibrant community, in a no-man's land  governed neither by the Chinese nor the British, it grew cancerous and had to be destroyed.  It boasted a chequered history.  Originally, it was a fortress built by the Chinese as a military outpost.  For many years soldiers and their families lived within the walled city and civilians set up businesses to serve them.  The soldiers  abandoned  the fortress when the British occupied Hong Kong, but the civilians continued their life there .  The Japanese conquered the territory in World War II, and they broke down the walls of the fortress to extend their airstrips.  When they left in 1945 at the end of the war, squatters occupied the area and the city grew even more rapidly.
Refugees from the Communist China settled here, so did Hong Kong's organized crime syndicate, the  Triads. ''Driven from mainland China, the Triads set up shop and start living like kings, while Hong Kong’s upper crust comes in for the sex, drugs and gambling.'' says Coilhouse Magazine + Blog  Over time, 500 buildings of uniform height, each 12 to 14 stories high, were built on an area approximately 200m X 150m so close together that no light could penetrate the city. Its nickname was Hak Nam--the City of Darkness and it was home to over 35,000 inhabitants making it one of the most densely populated places in the world.
 "The health authorities kept away. So the City just developed its own legion of ad-hoc clinics and dental surgeons. In the absence of telephone and utilities companies, the City’s inhabitants just by-wired their own electricity and connections. The same nick-it-yourself approach applied to plumbing and water. As a result, a tangled network of pipes and wiring dripped and hissed above the city’s dark, dank walkways. Cheap amenities for the residents, and, considering the extremely limited access, either in or out of the compound — a potentially catastrophic fire-hazard. " (Darran Anderson, FLOTSAM & JETSAM, 5/19/2009)

Before the walled city was demolished, photographers and journalists were allowed to wander in it freely and these pictures taken by Greg Girard and Ian Lambot are the reason for this post. For more  pictures of the daily life in this city visit the website

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