Kowloon Walled City

Kowloon Walled City in Kowloon, Hong Kong was, at it’s peak in the late eighties, the most densely populated place on the planet. It was originally a fortress that became a Chinese enclave when the surrounding area was leased to Britain in 1898. After World War II the city was flooded with refugees who could not stay in the outlying British territory. Though they claimed ownership of the Walled City, the British had little regard for it, and developed a laissez-faire approach to most matters concerning it.

Kowloon Walled City has inspired works of art, like this painting, by Jared Shear.

Eventually, the walled city descended into lawlessness and fell under the rule of various Triad groups, bringing with them prostitution, gambling, and drugs. The Triads’ grip on the Walled City eventually loosened in the early-seventies, after a long series of police raids from outside resulted in the seizure of 4,000 pounds of illegal drugs. As the Triads left the district, so did much of the crime and drug use that had come with them.

Buildings were built so close to each other that sunlight rarely reached the lower levels of the Walled City. Fluorescent lights were installed in the sixties and seventies, during a period of construction.

With the Triads gone, Kowloon Walled City began to govern itself, ushering in an era of prosperity for the otherwise troubled area. Despite the fact that crime was relatively low, the British and Chinese governments had grown tired of the Walled City, a district that they could not govern, which they considered a blight on Kowloon and Hong Kong at large. The decision to demolish the Walled City was announced on January 14th, 1987 and concluded in April of 1994.

Monument at Kowloon Walled City Park

All that remain of Kowloon Walled City are a public park and photographs.


Greg Girard, a Canadian photographer who works mostly in Asia, produced an excellent series of photographs of Kowloon City Park, some of which you can see in the gallery below.