Kowloon Walled City Was Like Nowhere Else On Earth

May 26, 2023 | Jamie Hayes

Kowloon Walled City Was Like Nowhere Else On Earth


There's never been anywhere quite like the Kowloon Walled City—and there probably never will be again.


Kowloon Walled City EditorialWikimedia Commons

Chinese Town

Though the city can trace its origins back a millennium as a military fort, things really started getting interesting when the British began occupying Hong Kong. At first, they thought the walled city might pose a threat, so they attacked—and found nothing but 150 scared residents inside. They claimed authority over the walled city, but mostly left it to its own devices.

The walled city became a strange relic in industrializing Hong Kong. The Brits called it "Chinese Town," and it was little more than a curiosity for the colonizers. Soon, however, the city stood in the way of "progress," and the Brits planned to tear it down. Chinese nationalists protested, and the project became tangled in red tape until WWII, when everyone suddenly had bigger problems.

Population Explosion

Before the War, Kowloon Walled City had been a quiet reminder of an older time, but with the onset of the Chinese Civil War, things changed—fast. Hong Kong saw a massive influx of refugees, and many of them ended up behind the city's decaying walls. In 1947, the British attempted to drive 2,000 squatters out of the city, but failed.

After that, they washed their hands of the walled city and left it to rot—and to grow.

The Wild East

By 1960, the walled city was a lawless enclave run by vicious drug triads. Police rarely ventured inside, and only in tight groups—like a military unit entering dangerous territory.

But the walled city didn't decay under this lawlessness—in a way, it thrived. Massive construction ensued, with developers building strange, ramshackle buildings on top of the old ones. Soon, almost every single building in the tiny city was 10 stories tall.

Kowloon Walled City EditorialWikimedia Commons

Urban Jungle

Kowloon Walled City looked like the setting of a dystopian movie. Tens of thousands of people crammed into the 300 or so buildings that covered the city's minuscule 7-acre footprint. A lack of construction oversight meant that few of the buildings had proper lighting or drainage. The average apartment was just 250 square feet. Sunlight rarely reached the ground, where a network of claustrophobic alleys crisscrossed the enclave—very few of which had proper streetlights.

By the 80s, Kowloon Walled City was the most densely populated place on Earth—perhaps the most densely populated place ever, with roughly 1,255,000 inhabitants per square kilometer.

But while Kowloon Walled City might have seemed strange and terrifying to outsiders, a tight-knit community formed within.

Home

Though the triads ruled the streets, there were still thousands of residents who simply wanted to eke out a living, and this urban jungle brought them together. A network of passageways formed throughout the upper floors, so that residents could cross from one side of the city to the other without ever venturing down to the poorly-lit streets.

Families bonded together, and people frequently gathered on rooftops open to the sky. Residents would congregate in the old administrative building at the city's center—one of the few relics from the city's past—to have tea, take classes, and watch television together. For them, the walled city wasn't some frightening oddity; it was where they slept, worked, and played.

The End

Kowloon Walled City couldn't avoid the creep of progress forever. In the early 90s, the government decided that it was time for this enclave to come to an end. They distributed around $350 million to the thousands of people who lived there—whether they wanted it or not—and had them forcibly evicted.

Authorities demolished the city between 1993 and 1994, and turned it into Kowloon Walled City Park, as it remains to this day.

Kowloon Walled City was not what anyone would call a perfect city. Or even a good city. But it was a community unlike anywhere else in the world—and for the people who found themselves living there, it was home.

Sources: 1


More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran



Dear reader,


Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to contribute@factinate.com. Thanks for your time!


Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at contribute@factinate.com. Thanks for your help!


Warmest regards,



The Factinate team




Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.