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TBT: A reminder of my 1987 police escort into Hong Kong's notorious slum, the Walled City
TBT: A recent article in the Daily Mail about Hong Kong’s notorious Walled City, the gang-controlled, densest slum on the planet, was a vivid reminder that Trisha and I were two of the few Westerners to ever get inside. With a police escort, of course. That was back in 1987 while researching “Warlords of Crime," an investigation of the Triads and the heroin trade.
As I wrote in that book, the Walled City was “a haven for drug addicts, a stronghold of gangsters, and a refuge for those fleeing legitimate authorities. It is a center for numerous illicit businesses ranging from snake vendors to counterfeiting shops. At times it was ‘governed’ by a motley crew of adventurers comprised of gunrunners and narcotics smugglers. It was inevitable that it should also become one of the chief breeding grounds for the Triads.”
The Walled City was torn down in 1992.
Chapter 10, “White Powder Ma” describes the beginning of our ‘tour’:
"Three police were in front of me and another two stepped in
just behind. The police escort was gathered at the opening to
an alleyway off a busy street. With the street light illuminating
the front of the path, I walked into the place where a Hong
Kong police superintendent had told me, 'If you go in alone,
the chances are you won't be coming back out.'
The alley we entered was enclosed like a concrete tunnel. It
was dirty. More than a hundred years of neglect had left the
stucco walls with inches of grime. The ceiling was low and covered
by a bewildering jumble of knotted wires, dangling electric
cables, and exposed fuses and sockets, all hanging less than a foot
from the tallest cop's head. The floor was a mixture of broken
concrete and dirt, which made it difficult to walk. As my police
escort led me deeper into the tunnel, an occasional naked bulb
providing the barest light, the ceiling and walls closed in. Within
a hundred yards the walls had narrowed so that we had to proceed
single file, and the ceiling dropped so we could only walk
crouched over. Then the tunnel began to widen again, and suddenly
we entered a new section that first appeared to be a maze.
Other tunnels led off in a half-dozen directions, and some staircases
offered dark climbs to unknown overhead locations.
One of my police escorts pointed at a wooden sign imprinted with
Chinese characters hanging over the second opening on the right.
'See that, it says the name of that street is Rats' Piss. That's where
we are going.'"