Friday, March 26, 2010

Kowloon Walled City

Holy shit this was a crazy place. Kowloon Walled City! From about 1945 to 1993 this city, actually an outskirt of Hong Kong, was legally under the authority of NO ONE. Although located in China it had traded hands to the British during their imperial reign and through a long and convoluted process of creating a magistrate's fort and then simply ignoring and forgetting about it for the next hundred years- basically there ended up being a singular plot of land in Hong Kong that was monitored neither by the British nor the Chinese or...anyone... This was Kowloon Walled City. A lawless piece of land that seemed to develop almost from within itself, it's increasingly huge amount of residents building upon it's limited structure continuously until an unthinkable monolithic labyrinth was constructed. Buildings sprawled out, on top of and around all sides of other buildings. It is said that sunlight didnt reach the lower floors, but of course residents had hacked into the lighting grids. Only one man, a postal service worker, knew most of the cities hallways, corridors, twists and turns by heart. One could traverse nearly the entire city by walking up to the roof level and then descending down again into the maze. There were at least two major rat infestations. Smaller stealthier ones in the higher levels and huge sewer rats down below. But the residents educated themselves, created groups to defend themselves against crime and demolition and in classic Chinese style constantly worked their asses off to keep their whole bizarre city way of life moving ahead. And you'd better believe that in communist China many of these people were happy enough to be living in a lawless city. At it's height over 30'000 people lived in this place, one of the most densely populated habitations in human history. It remained under threat from police raids from the Hong Kong government and yet within it's walls the residents payed no taxes, the doctors worked without licenses, the cooks worked without food inspection, the drugs, crime and violence flowed in unchecked (for a time) and all was right with the world. This place was never heralded as a utopia by any means but it is one of the only examples our history has of a more or less anarchistic society. Granted, for some time it was almost completely corrupted by Triads (Chinese organized crime) And it was an obvious haven for violence, drug addiction, prostitution, etc. But in one year alone during the 70's, the Chinese government performed over 3'000 raids and stabilized the crime situation, more or less. This in turn was quite a boon to the city at large and of course raises inevitable question about what a "truly" anarchistic society could have done without some kind of authority presence, even an outside one. Needlessly to say, things like this just can't last and when the Chinese took back total control of Kowloon they predictably deemed it a nuisance and demanded it be demolished in 1987. After a lengthy and, Im certain, very unpleasant process of eviction the whole thing was finally bulldozed in 1993. Now it is a park. Yay.

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