Once thought to be the most densely populated place on Earth, with 50,000 people crammed into only a few blocks, these fascinating pictures give a rare insight into the lives of those who lived Kowloon Walled City.
Kowloon Walled City was a densely populated, largely ungoverned settlement in New Kowloon, Hong Kong. Originally a Chinese military fort, the Walled City became an enclave after the New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898. Its population increased dramatically following the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II. In 1987, the Walled City contained 33,000 residents within its 2.6-hectare (6.4-acre) borders. From the 1950s to the 1970s, it was controlled by Triads and had high rates of prostitution, gambling, and drug use.
In January 1987, the Hong Kong government announced plans to demolish the Walled City. After an arduous eviction process, demolition began in March 1993 and was completed in April 1994. Kowloon Walled City Park opened in December 1995 and occupies the area of the former Walled City. Some historical artefacts from the Walled City, including its yamen building and remnants of its South Gate, have been preserved there
Kowloon Walled City was notorious for drugs and crime but many of its 50,000 residents lived their lives peacefully until it was demolished in the early 90s.
Canadian photographer Greg Girard and Ian Lambot spent five years getting to know the residents and taking pictures of the densely populated buildings.
Mir Lui was assigned to work in the city as a postman in 1976 and had no choice but to go. He was one of the few people who knew the ins and outs and wore a hat to protect him from the constant dripping.
The shrieks of children playing on rooftops were frequently drowned out by the sounds of jet engines as aircraft powered through their final 100 metres on the runway at Kai Tak Airport.
For many residents who lived in the upper levels of the city, ion in particular, the roof was an invaluable sanctuary: a ‘lung’ of fresh air and escape from the claustrophobia of the windowless flats below.
The city, lit up during the night, was the scene of the 1993 movie Crime Story starring Jackie Chan and includes real scenes of buildings exploding.
A Kowloon Walled City resident who is dissatisfied with compensation payouts from the government sits on a pavement in protest as police start the clearance operation.
Food processors admitted they had moved into the city to benefit from the low rents and to seek refuge from the jurisdiction of government health and sanitation inspectors.
A workplace during the day would turn into a living room at night when Hui Tung Choy’s wife and two young daughters joined him at his noodle business. The children’s play and homework space was a flour-encrusted work bench.
Law Yu Yi, aged 90, lived in a small and humid third-floor flat with her son’s 68-year-old wife off Lung Chun First Alley. The arrangement is typical of traditional Chinese values in which the daughter-in-law looks after her inlaws.
Grocery-store owner Chan Pak, 60, in his tiny shop on Lung Chun Back Road. He had a particular passion for cats and owned seven when this picture was taken.
This hairdresser puts curlers in a customer’s hair at a salon in the city. Many people continued to live their lives normally despite drug and crime problems.
A child with a grazed knee sits on a counter top in a tiny shop which sells essentials like toilet paper and canned foods. Cigarettes are also on display in a cabinet.
The area was made up of 300 interconnected high-rise buildings, built without the contributions of a single architect and ungoverned by Hong Kong’s health and safety regulations.
Thousands of people went about their lives daily with many making do with what space they had to grow plants or hand washing on balconies above the busy shops and streets below.
A rooftop view of the city at night which shows just a few of the thousands of TV aerials which sit on the buildings.
Over time, both the British and the Chinese governments found the massive, anarchic city to be increasingly intolerable – despite the low reported crime rate in later years.
Workers – not restricted by health and safety regulations – prepare their fish for sale and, right, a wall in a home adorned with clocks and pictures of relatives
Daylight barely penetrates the rubbish-strewn grille over the city’s Tin Hau Temple which was built in 1951 on an alley off Lo Yan Street.
The government spent around 2.7 billion Hong Kong dollars in compensation to the estimated 33,000 families and businesses. Some were not satisfied and tried to stop the evacuations.