Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kowloon Walled City: The Modern Pirate Utopia

Kowloon Walled City was a tiny Chinese enclave (1899 - 1993) that was located in the middle of British Hongkong for decades. Originally a military fort , it developed into an extremely dense , largely ungoverned urban settlement during the mid to late 20th century. From 1899, these tenacious squatters had repelled the British, the Japanese and every would-be landlord and “property owner” in the history of Hong Kong.

Kowloon” means “Nine Dragons ”. After an eviction process that took years and cost billions of hongkong-dollars, the city was destroyed in 1993. Only a park remains. While it lasted, though, it was the closest thing to Pure Anarchy the world has seen outside of a war zone.

At it’s most overgrown peak in early 1987, Kowloon Walled City was home to 50,000 inhabitants. Although the Walled City was for many years a hotbed of criminal activity, most residents were not involved in any crime and lived peacefully within its walls. Numerous small factories and businesses thrived inside the Walled City, and some residents formed groups to organize and improve daily life there.

It’s also worth meditating on how Kowloon came to achieve their “hands-off” status: by kicking up such a profound shit-storm of noise and problems, every single time someone tried to exert their authority, that everyone in power simply gave up. British policy came to regard Walled City as something of a hornets nest “‘ best not to be kicked unless absolutely necessary.”
Perhaps the lesson here is that there are no little things when it comes to defending your freedom. ..