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Mapping the Horrors of Hong Kong's 'Lawless' Walled City

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Twenty years ago, Hong Kong's Kowloon Walled City, an extremely crowded, largely unsupervised encampment that at one time boasted some 50,000 residents in a footprint that spanned about 290,000 square feet, began its demolition, tearing down a settlement of more than 500 buildings and crumbling a community the South China Morning Post called "a lawless vacuum." Here brothels and gambling hubs "operated with impunity," heroin dealers eluded law enforcement, doctors practiced without licenses, and a lack of government meant building codes and sanitation regulations were nonexistent. Still, according to the Morning Post, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the demise of the "City of Darkness" with a detail-loaded infographic, former denizens of the Walled City say it was a "tight-knit community that was poor but generally happy." So what all was packed in? A closer look, below.

Without government services, trash ended up piled atop the building's roofs. According to the infographic, "Old TV sets, broken furniture, discarded mattresses and other bulky items hauled to the roof and abandoned." Also up top: water tanks filled by electric pumps and laced throughout the city through narrow pipes.

Electrical wiring was draped along the facade of buildings "to prevent fires," the Morning Post writes. In the alleyways, people used umbrellas "to shield themselves from constantly dripping water pipes."

On the ground floor: unchecked doctors and dentists, as well as markets and cafes. The whole shebang, below:

· Kowloon Walled City: Life in the City of Darkness [South China Morning Post]
· Infographic: Life Inside The Kowloon Walled City [Arch Daily]