Kowloon Walled City – Words with Stu Easton
Kowloon Walled City was originally a Chinese military fort in Hong Kong, and can be traced all the way back to the song Dynasty (960-1279), when it was used to control piracy and salt production in the area. The story doesn’t get cool until waaaay later though, when Great Britain first took control of Hong Kong in 1842. During this era the Chinese continued to control Kowloon Walled City – a Chinese island inside Hong Kong city – and built a dirty great wall around it, hence the name. The Chinese in Kowloon Walled City eventually left, and the British tore down the wall to build the nearby Kai Tak airport. After WWII, 2,000 squatters occupied the now wall-less Kowloon Walled City and save for the very occasional raid, the city was completely lawless until the 1990s after both Chinese and British forces adopted a ‘hands off’ policy with regard to the Walled City due to its murky legal status. By 1989 this was the result:
(click to enlarge)
An estimated 33,000 people living on a piece of land the size of a city block. Thats 1,255,000 people per square kilometre, or the most densely populated place on the planet (probably). Thats fucked up. The place was a haven for crime, drugs and prostitution with countless gambling houses, brothels, opium dens and dodgy dentists. Motherfuckers even came from outside Kowloon Walled City to have a bit of fun away from the prying eyes of the law. The only laws in the city were building codes believe it or not, which were that electricity had to be wired to all buildings to prevent fire from open flames and a fourteen story height limit was imposed on construction due to the nearby airport. And so a cube of urban decay bloomed like a flower in the middle of Hong Kong. Streets, catwalks and alleyways connected the ever growing buildings at every story and some accounts describe rubbish filling the lower ‘streets’ up to two stories high in places.
Triads ruled the city for a stage, but by 1993 the authorities had had enough and the whole City was demolished. 2.7 billion Hong Kong dollars were thrown at the residents and they were told to piss off. Before the demolition a team of Japanese explorers (explorers in a city! how awesome is that!?) took a week to document the city. Check out their Engrish account at http://web.archive.org/web/20020611050418/www.flex.co.jp/kowloon/story/index_e.html.
By Stuart Motherfuckin Easton,
Professor of all things metal.