Hong Kong Wiki
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This Week’s Entry: Kowloon Walled City
What It’s About: There’s been a settlement in the Kowloon section of Hong Kong since the Song Dynasty built an outpost to manage the salt trade nearly a millenia ago. But most modern-day mention of Kowloon Walled City refers to a cluster of poorly constructed high-rise apartments, built after the Japanese tore down the original city walls after WWII. The high-rises, built and endlessly rebuilt and modified with little regard for building codes or basic health and safety concerns, at one point housed over 30, 000 residents in what was essentially a giant squat, without any public utilities and little to no involvement from the police or local government. Despite all this, a close-knit community formed in what was once the most densely populated location on earth.
Strangest Fact: While the Walled City had little if any government oversight, making it a haven for criminals from drug dealers to unlicensed dentists, the community of squatters still managed to provide their own social services. The cultural center of the complex was the yamen—basically the mayor’s office—which was used as a social center and for classes and religious services. While most of the modern Walled City was built in the 1960s and ’70s, it was eventually discovered that the yamen was an original structure dating back to the 19th century. It was the original magistrate’s office, and had been used by the British as an old folks’ home, a school, and a poorhouse, and was one of the only parts of the original walled city to survive the Japanese occupation during WWII.
Biggest Controversy: In the 1950s and ‘60s, Kowloon—which had never had much police presence to begin with—was ruled over by the Triad, who ran numerous brothels, casinos, and opium dens in the lawless city. In 1973-74, a series of over 3, 500 police raids finally drove out the gangs, and crime steadily dropped over the following decade.
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