Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Kowloon Walled City - A Sad Chapter That Remains Alive and Well in the History of Hong Kong

You can't possibly watch this video about the Kowloon Walled City (九龍城寨), a 17-minute Wall Street Journal documentary produced in English, without feeling a little down. It also brings back haunting visions and gruesome images for many of us who grew up in Hong Kong because the Kowloon Walled City, while unique, was in many ways a miniature of many middle-to-lower class districts of the former British colony. In fact, the neighborhood I grew up from - Central Tsuen Wan - bore much resemblance to the scenes in the video.

Maybe it was not as bad; but let me tell you, it was pretty darn close. I remember specifically one brutal and heated fight involving 7 or 8 gangsters from two opposing triad groups that unfolded before my very eyes shortly before I left for Canada to study university. It happened in broad daylight in the area where my family lived. The fight was animal like; it was bloody; it was fierce. I stood there, one hand covering my mouth (I could have vomited) and the other stroking my heart; and I told myself I would never, ever want to live in that place again!!

Still four years later, I graduated from university and returned to live in Tsuen Wan for four more years before I managed to leave Hong Kong for good. As we, the people from Hong Kong, glow in the warmth and happiness of this wealthy-looking financial city in the Far East, the shadowy and grim images of the Kowloon Walled City or, for that matter, of Tsuen Wan, which I called home for more than 20 years, are lurking in the background, making a mockery of the former colony’s good name - the Pearl of the Orient - and reminding us of a very dark chapter of her history.

At the same time, we must recognize with grateful hearts that these were the grass-root people who made the mighty engine of the former colony turn in the sixties and seventies when its economy started to take flight. In a very real way, they made Hong Kong what it is today. They also made us, people who came from or live in Hong Kong, who we are. Forget them not when we count our blessings in our prayer.

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