Kowloon Walled City: Life in the City of Darkness

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  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Kowloon Walled City: Life in the City of Darkness


    It's 20 years since demolition of Kowloon Walled City began, but former residents hold fond memories of the overcrowded slum they called home


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    It was called a lawless twilight zone by some and the world's most overcrowded squat by others. But to many, the Kowloon Walled City was simply home.

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    This month marks 20 years since work started to wipe away one of the most striking features of the Hong Kong landscape for good.

    A 2.7-hectare enclave of opium parlours, whorehouses and gambling dens run by triads, it was a place where police, health inspectors and even tax collectors feared to tread.

    Pictures: What was it really like living in Kowloon Walled City?

    In Cantonese, it was known as the City of Darkness.

    But though it may have been a fetid slum, crawling with rats and dripping with sewage, it was stoutly defended to the last by those who lived there, as well as an unlikely ensemble of Chinese shopkeepers, faith healers and self-taught dentists.

    It was once thought to be the most densely populated place on earth, with 35,000 people crammed into a few tiny apartment blocks and more than 300 interconnected high-rise buildings, all constructed without contributions from a single architect.

    But in March 1993, the last batch of residents finally accepted the government's rehousing terms and compensation terms.

    It brought down the final curtain on a bizarre chapter of Hong Kong's colonial past.

    Ask former residents what they miss most about the Walled City and most say the friendship.

    In the 1960s, the Heung family of six moved from a rooftop hut in Hung Hom to the Walled City.

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    At first they lived in a 70 sq ft room in a two-storey house near Tung Tau Chuen Road, which they shared with seven other families.

    Several years later they moved to a two-bedroom flat on the fourth floor of a high-rise on Tai Cheng Street.

    "Life was poor, but we were very happy," said Heung Yin-king, the eldest daughter.

    "We had the best times in the first house, even though the rooms were so tiny there wasn't space for a dinner table.

    "We ate from a board laid over the knitting machine and sat on the bed. Everyone got along, and it was great to have so many kids to play with.

    "The second house was all right but had no taps, so as the eldest daughter I had the responsibility of hauling buckets of water from the public taps up four floors to the flat every day. That's why I'm so short!"

    The history of the Kowloon Walled City dates from the Sung Dynasty of 960-1297, when it began as a small fort to house the imperial soldiers who controlled the salt trade.

    In the second half of the 19th century, the Chinese were facing invasion by the British, who held Hong Kong Island. So they expanded it into a proper garrison town containing soldiers, officials and their families.

    In 1898, it became the only part of Hong Kong that China was unwilling to cede to Britain under the 99-year lease of Kowloon and the New Territories.

    The British agreed that China could keep the Walled City until the colonial administration for the area was established.

    But China never dropped its claim of jurisdiction and the sovereignty fight remained unresolved. The result was that it became a lawless enclave and a hotbed of criminal activity.

    In December 1899, after several unsuccessful attempts to clear the city, the British announced their jurisdiction was to be extended to include it and the Chinese officials left.

    The city became isolated. While parts were leased to church-run, charitable institutions, much was left to fall into disrepair. By 1940 only the Lung Chun School, its gateway and one private home remained.

    When the Japanese invaded in the second world war, they demolished the oldest standing part of the Walled City - its wall, used in work on Kai Tak airport.

    But the destruction didn't prevent Chinese refugees flocking to the site after the war.

    Rents were low, and there were no concerns about taxes, visas or licences. By 1947 there were 2,000 squatter camps on the site. Permanent buildings followed, and by 1971, 10,000 people occupied 2,185 dwellings.

    By the late 1980s, it was home to 35,000 people. The government tried to clear the city several times, but on each occasion the residents threatened to create a diplomatic incident.

    Their attitude - handy when it came to keeping the noses of the authorities out of their business - was that the city was part of China and would never belong to Hong Kong. And to avoid damaging Sino-British relations, the government adopted a largely hands-off policy towards it.

    The city again became a hotbed of criminal activity. Opium dens, heroin stands, brothels and dog restaurants all multiplied in the '50s and '60s, with police usually turning a blind eye.

    There were three reasons for that - the police were politically hamstrung, some were bribed and it was too dangerous.

    Real power lay with the triads. But the position changed in the '70s, when a wave of anti-corruption campaigns removed most criminal elements in the authorities. No longer protected, the triads became weaker.

    The height of the Walled City rose with the rest of Hong Kong. In the 1950s, housing usually consisted of wooden and stone low-rises. In the '60s, concrete buildings of four or five storeys appeared. And in the '70s, many were replaced by blocks of 10 storeys or more.

    The site became chaotically cramped, with buildings so close to each other that in some it was impossible to open a window.

    Low rents also meant many small factories, with toys, plastic goods and food among the biggest products. The factories may have brought their owners decent incomes, but they also brought more rubbish, fire hazards and pollution to the city.

    Limited interference by the authorities also meant limited welfare. Apart from basic municipal services such as rubbish collection, residents had to rely on each other to maintain living conditions. That bred a close-knit community of people willing to support each other.

    The Walled City's fate was finally decided in January 1987, when the government announced plans to demolish it.

    After an arduous eviction process, demolition began in March 1993 and was completed in April 1994. Kowloon Walled City Park opened on the site in December 1995.

    But some artefacts from the Walled City, including its Yamen building, remain. This was built in the early 1800s and served as a military headquarters.

    Remnants of its South Gate have also been preserved.

    But while it has been demolished, memories of the Walled City - and its spirit - still live on in the hearts of many Hongkongers.

    It could be argued that today we have lost some of the sense of community and social solidarity that could once be seen there.

    Growing up, Albert Ng Kam-po and his friends would go to the roof and fly kites that could almost scrape the bellies of airliners as they descended to Kai Tak Airport across the street.

    "We didn't know it was so dangerous," says Ng, 45, a pastor at the English-speaking Island Evangelical Community Church in Quarry Bay.

    "We'd just play ping-pong in the hallway. The kids would go up onto the roofs and leap from building to building, or we would drag discarded mattresses to the roof and jump on them. It was a happy time."

    Ida Shum a 62-year-old former resident now living in Hung Hom, agreed that the some of the worst and poorest people in Hong Kong lived there.

    She said it was a haven for triad groups such as the 14K and Sun Yee On, who jealously controlled their territory.

    But she also said there was much more to the Walled City than that.

    She remembered how when it was raining, the street was nearly always flooded.

    Water would rise to people's knees with trash floating around, but the residents just walked through it in their bare feet.

    No problem, no matter how difficult, could be overcome.

    Shum described how her neighbour always helped her take care of her children and they cooked for each other.

    This allowed her to focus on her work and earn money to feed her family.

    "We all had very good relationships in very bad conditions.

    "Even now, many people stay in touch with each other even though some old friends are overseas," Shum said.

    "People who lived there were always loyal to each other. In the Walled City, the sunshine always followed the rain."

    This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Living in the City of Darkness

    Kowloon Walled City: Life in the City of Darkness | South China Morning Post

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    Inside of the real China.

    Overcrowded and a twilight zone.

    A whorehouses and gambling dens run by triads, it was a place where police, health inspectors and even tax collectors feared to tread.

    A most densely populated place on earth, with 35,000 people crammed into a few tiny apartment blocks and more than 300 interconnected high-rise buildings, all constructed without contributions from a single architect.

    But it is changing and yet "Life was poor, but we were very happy," said Heung Yin-king, the eldest daughter.

    That is the moral of Kowloon!
     
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  3. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    if u did carefully read this report the enclave "Kowloon Fort" was unique becoz it wasnt ceded to Britain by Qing Dynasty like Kowloon Penisula, New Territory, Hong Kong Is. etc. so there had been a vacuum of governance.

    there was a strong resistance from residents to demolition by British admin. since the colonial gvmt had no sovereignty over the enclave.

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  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The issue is about what was Kowloon and how the residents miss the camaraderie.

    But then, progress cannot be stopped!

    It maybe recalled Hong Kong's territory was acquired from three separate treaties: the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, the Treaty of Beijing in 1860, and The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory in 1898, which gave the UK the control of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon (area south of Boundary Street), and the New Territories (area north of Boundary Street and south of the Shenzhen River, and outlying islands), respectively. Although Hong Kong Island and Kowloon had been ceded to the United Kingdom in perpetuity, the control on the New Territories was a 99-year lease.

    Note the sentence in Bold.

    It is the magnanimity of the British to have quit even though Hong Kong Island and Kowloon had been ceded to the United Kingdom in perpetuity.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
  5. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Kowloon "walled city" (fort) was not included in Kowloon that was given away.

    Yeah everyone shall be grateful of the "magnanimity" of her majesty's govmt though it was basically determined by realpolitik.

    What abt Diego Garcia? Or Malvinas?

    India even had to grab Goa from a decayed Portugal by force!

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    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  6. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Read history.

    Goa was a place that was of the Indian people.

    It was captured by the Portuguese when imperialism and colonisation was the rule of the century. NO complaints there!

    No treaty was signed to gift it away in perpetuity.

    So, the situation is different!
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  7. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Feel free to interprete "history"! When Portuguese came up with civilization with whom to treaty with? which maharaja or which nawab or which sultan? Where was "India" as a sovereign entity at that time?

    Nehru's invasion of Goa was condemnes by the international community incl. the US.

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  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Maybe this will be education to you.

    the Goan freedom struggle was preceded by a continuous and spontaneous resistance from the local people. The measures introduced by the Portuguese Rule from time-to-time to bring the Goans under their full control always met with stiff opposition. Any measure, including the Charter of Uses and Customs of 1526, did not satisfy them. The volcano of resistance often burst out sporadically, threatening the hold of the overzealous Portuguese Governors who were engrossed in the task of empire building and Colonization of Goa. As early as 1555, the Goans resisted the imposition and collection of exorbitant land revenue.
    3. In 1787, in the “Conspiracy of the Pintos” several Goan Catholic Priests, who were seething with discontent on account of the deprivation of the top ecclesiastical seats reserved for European clergy, revolted. They were accused of plotting to establish a republic in which the local people would have ruled themselves by exercising all the powers through a House of the People. The leaders of this remarkable plot were Fr. Caetano Francisco Couto of Panaji and Jose Antonio Gonsalves of Divar.

    4. However, the revolts by the Ranes of Satari were more noteworthy. They created an atmosphere of terror in the Portuguese strongholds. During the period between 1755 and 1822, they launched 14 insurrections in order to secure their lost rights from the Portuguese rulers. Realizing their own weakness, the Portuguese were lenient in their approach and tried to come to an understanding with them. But this did not dither the Ranes from their burning zeal. They rebelled again in July 1823 in the face of severe repression by the Government that provoked them to plan a still bigger rebellion in September 1824, which ultimately led to more severe controls by the Government.

    5. In January 1835, Bernado Peres da Silva was the first Goan to occupy the highest Executive office with the title of the Prefect of Goa Daman and Diu. However, he was deposed within 18 days by the European residents who were irked by his nomination. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of severe curbs imposed from 1845 to 1851, Dipaji Rane master minded a major rebellion on 26th January 1852 in protest against the imposition of new restrictions and levies on cultivable lands. He captured the fortress of Nanuz and laid hold on village army outpost, which ultimately led to the restoration of the concessions and rights to the Ranes under an agreement. In 1869, Kustoba Rane raise the banner of revolt to avenge the injustice meted out by implicating him in a rape case. The revolt continued for 3 years, culminating in his assassination. In 1870, the seething discontent among the native police came to the fore in the form of a military uprising at Volvoi and in the following year there was another mutiny by the armed native sepoys in Marcela. In 1895, Dada Rane, with the help of 900 aides well –versed in guerilla warfare launched a bigger revolt against the Portuguese. However, it was ruthlessly suppressed, and he alongwith his colleagues was deported to Timor in the Pacific Ocean.

    6. In the meantime, the Goan intelligencia was also influenced by the speeches and writings of Francisco Luis Gomes, a Goan Parliamentarian of 19th century and one of the first Indians to demand freedom for India from the British domination. Side by side, the Goans were slowly getting attuned to the political consciousness created in the rest of the country by the Indian National Congress in 1885 and thereafter. They were silently looking at the march of events in India and the mass awakening with the fond hope that their destiny too was blended with the freedom struggle of the Indians at large. The silent struggle for the liberation of Goa, which slowly gathered momentum, was actually on account of two diametrically opposite forces. On the one hand, cultural, historical and geographical affinity with India had impressed upon the Goans a sense of national spirit. On the other hand, the Portuguese regime had taken recourse to severe repressive measures in order to curb the national awakening amongst Goans.

    7. In the first two decades of the 20th Century, the “Kesari” and the “Maratha” of Lokmanya Tilak inspired the Goan minds and moulded the public opinion in Goa. Thereafter, the “Hindu” of Dattatraya Venkatesh Pai and the “Bharat” of Govind Pundalik Hegde Dessai campaigned vigorously, awakening the Goan masses. The columns of Luis de Menezes Braganza, in “Pracasha”, crusading continuously for the cause of liberalism and self –determination, stirred the hearts of the Goan literates who prepared themselves to get rid of the mental enslavement to which they were subjected for long. When the Colonial Act was imposed on the Territories, he had tabled a Motion which said Portuguese India “does not renounce the right that all people possess of attaining the fullness of their individuality till they are able to constitute units capable of guiding their own destinies, since this is the birth right of their organic essence”. This encouraged the intellectual youths like Dr. T. B. Cunha to identify the aspirations of Goans with those of the Indian brethren to form the Goa Congress Committee in 1928, which was affiliated to the Indian National Congress at its Calcutta Session.

    8. Apart from the unsuccessful revolts by the Ranes of Satari, the Portuguese, in fact, did not encounter any formidable challenge till Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia lighted the torch of last phase of the freedom movement on 18th June 1946. On that memorable day in the annals of Goa’s history, he openly defied the Government orders against holding a public meeting at Madgaon and rebuked captain Fortunato Miranda, the Administrator of the District. In his speech that he could just begin before his arrest, Dr. Lohia said “A conspiracy has sought for decades to turn Goa into an island of imperialist safety where the law has proved inadequate. While initiating the Civil Disobedience Movement in Goa, Dr. Lohia gave expression to his feelings in a more explicit way. In an open letter to the Goans, he made it clear that the aim of the movement was to win civil liberties, but that the methods followed were those of mass awakening and action short of violent rebellion. He advised them “Look not to Delhi, not to UNO for your deliverance. Your freedom lies in you”. He was the first Indian leader to utter on Goa’s soil that Goa was part of India and should be integrated with it. It was he who invoked the Indians to help the Goan brethren in their fight for liberties. Lohia’s valiant action and words produced a deep impact on the minds of every Indian. Mahatma Gandhi wrote in his “Harijan” on 30th June. 1946 “Dr. Lohia has rendered a service to the course of civil liberty and especially to the Goans. The little Portuguese settlement which merely exists on the sufferance of the British Government can ill afford to ape its bad manners”. The extraordinary step of Dr. Lohia led the Congress Working Committee at Wardha to pass a resolution condemning the high handedness of the Portuguese Government and to back fully the Goans in their struggle for the restoration of civil liberties. But the Portuguese rulers, without realizing the signs of the time, called the Civil Disobedience Movement as “movimento da rua” (roadside agitation).

    9. The Civil Disobedience Movement instilled a sense of boldness among the Goans and strengthened their moral fabric, prompting numerous Goan patriots to jump into the vortex of the freedom struggle in Goa and outside in self-exile. It electrified all the political groups and nationalists to come under one banner of the National Congress (Goa), which was formed on 17th-18th August 1946 at the historic meeting at Londa. The National Congress (Goa) was the main political party, which was like a Banyan tree under which the political workers of all shades and opinions rallied and at times fell apart, resulting into proliferation of several small parties and groups, yet contributing to the cause in no small measure. In the long drawn out struggle, many of the patriots laid down their precious lives on the altar of freedom with a smile. Some of them were deported to Portugal, Angola and Cabo Verde for long terms of imprisonment. Hundreds of them were jailed and tortured inhumanly. With the arrest of the leaders of Civil Disobedience Movement in 1946-47, there was a lull in Goa and the centers of action moved outside Goa. However, the movement got a shot in the arm with the liberation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli in July-August 1954. A mass satyagraha movement was launched by the National Congress (Goa) and the Goa Vimochan Sahayak Samiti in Goa in 1954 and 1955. The Portuguese suppressed the movement with brutality. The brave, risky and valiant fights put up by the groups like Azad Gomantak Dal, the Frante Patriotica, the United Front of Goans, the Goan People’s Party, the Goa Liberation Army and Quit Goa Organisation, did not give sleep to the Portuguese rulers.

    10. By the end of 1956, while the deadlock on the Goa Front continued, the focus moved to the United Nations where India vehemently contended that Goa was a clear colonial problem and mobilized the support of the freedom loving nations in Africa and West Asia, apart from the full support of the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries. Encouraged by the success, at the Hague Court against the Portuguese in the case of the right of passage of Dadra and Nagar Haveli as well as on account of tremendous pressure from the people within the country, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India, had to finally resort to “Operation Vijay” to liberate Goa Daman & Diu after 451 years of Portuguese subjugation, thereby wiping off the last colonial vestige from the Indian soil.



    Source: “Who’s Who of Freedom Fighters”.
    - Goa, Daman and Diu Vol. one brought out by Goa Gazetteer

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    So, you see there were many to negotiate with.and the Goans never accepted the Portuguese rule in a supine manner as the Chinese did with the British.


    Now compare it with China and Hong Kong!
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  9. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The international community condemns China for practically everything.

    So, you accept that that is totally correct, right?
     

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