Hong Kong’s High-Density Housing & Cramped Living Conditions

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, with scaffolding, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

From NetEase:

Hong Kong Ant Tribe

On Hong Kong’s 1,108 square kilometers of land live 7.07 million people. They have the world’s densest skyline while also
. German photographer Michael Wolf has completed photographing two collections “Architecture of Density” and “100×100” (100 households living in 100 square feet public apartments), in Hong Kong. The two pieces of work show the inside and outside of Hong Kong housing, and the other side behind the scenes. Photographer: Michael Wolf. Compiler: Fei Tian. Source: M97 Shanghai Contemporary Photography Gallery.

Architecture of Density

Because of historical, political, and geographical reasons, only 23.7% of Hong Kong’s land is developed. 76 square kilometers of land is developed for housing use, which occupies only 6.8% of the total land area.

Due to the high population density caused by limits on land development, 7.07 million people mainly live in residential high-rises. There are a total of 6588 high-rise buildings in all of Hong Kong, far surpassing New York’s 5818 buildings, becoming a veritable “skyscraper city”.

Michael Wolf’s “Architecture of Density” collection takes a look at these oppressive concrete “curtains”, painting a picture of abstract patterns that blot out the sky. [click to enlarge images]

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #57 (2006)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #119 (2008)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #39 (2003)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #98 (2008)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #23 (2005)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #111 (2008)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #43 (2006)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #19 (2003)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #108 (2008)

Hong Kong's high density residential buildings, photographed by Michael Wolf in 'Architecture of Density'.

Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” #95 (2008)


Hong Kong’s average housing prices is 12.6x the median annual household income, ranking first/highest in the world. As of 2011, 47.7% of Hong Kong city residents live in public apartments (government subsidized housing) or residences (government rent-controlled housing) because they are unable to purchase private housing. It’s per capita residential space is 12.8 square meters.

Kowloon’s Shek Kip Mei Estates was Hong Kong’s first public housing development. On 1953 December 24th, the wooden Shek Kip Mei experienced a large fire, leaving 53,000 people homeless. The Hong Kong government directly intervened to provide housing, building new public housing in the original location for the disaster victims. Shek Kip Mei became a model, beginning Hong Kong’s era of public housing.

At the end of 2007 April, Michael Wolf learned that Shek Kip Mei Estates was to be demolished and rebuilt, and spent four days time going door to door to photograph every one of Shek Kip Mei’s 100 square feet (approximately 9.3 square meter) rooms, revealing these half-century old public housing units, and the stories of the 100 households that live there. 2007 May 1st, Shek Kip Mei’s residents began to move out, and the demolition began.

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #20 (2006). Name: Lam Sam Mui. Age: 93. Time at this residence: 30 years. Former occupation: Peddler. What aspect of this public housing do you like: No comment.

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Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #26 (2006). Name: So Sheung (right). Age: 94. Time at this residence: 25 years. Former occupation: Food delivery boy. What aspect of this public housing do you like: Low rent.

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #18 (2006). Name: Choi Ting Shou (right). Age: 69. Time at this residence: 27 years. Former occupation: Security guard. What aspect of this public housing do you like: Friendly neighbors.

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #4 (2006). Name: Liu Kam Chiu (left), Chung Fut (right) Age: 70 (left), 81 (right). Time at this residence: 17 years. Former occupation: Cleaning woman (left), peddler (right). What aspect of this public housing do you like: Convenient transportation, friendly neighbors, good ventilation.

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #15 (2006). Name: Tham Ho. Age: 99. Time at this residence: 26 years. Former occupation: Cement plant worker. What aspect of this public housing do you like: Low rent, can chat with neighbors, neighbors take care of each other (one neighbor helps her buy food every day).

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #37 (2006). Name: Yau Ka Yan. Age: 11. Time at this residence: 6 years. Occupation: Student. What aspect of this public housing do you like: Neighbors are good-natured and entertaining in conversation.

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #92 (2006). Name: Ma Gui Woon. Age: 68. Time at this residence: 13 years. Former occupation: Clothing factory worker. What aspect of this public housing do you like: Everything.

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #40 (2006). Name: Tam King (left). Age: 82. Time at this residence: 25 years. Former occupation: Metalwork factory worker. What aspect of this public housing do you like: Convenient transportation.

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #69 (2006). Name: Tsang King Wah. Age: 11. Time at this residence: 7 years. Occupation: Student. What aspect of this public housing do you like: Convenient transportation.

Former Hong Kong Shek Kip Mei residents and the 100 square foot room they lived in, photographed by Michael Wolf.

Michael Wolf “100×100” #2 (2006). Name: Chung Ying. Age: 84. Time at this residence: 12 years. Occupation: Housewife. What aspect of this public housing do you like: Good environment, friendly neighbors.

Comments from NetEase:

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潘马户邓小闲 [网易河南省焦作市网友]:

S what? At least none of them have to worry about being forcibly evicted and their homes demolished. The smiles on their faces are very natural!

dwylyfh [网易四川省成都市网友]: (responding to above)

SB, Hong Kong also has incidents of forced evictions/demolitions and roadside stalls being dismantled preventing people from making a living. Familiarize yourself with Hong Kong history. If you’re going to criticize, your criticisms still need to be convincing.

网易河北省保定市网友: (responding to above)

Hong Konger’s welfare is over a hundred times better than mainlanders, and that’s what attracts people. Just three things put mainlanders to shame: able to travel to over 100 countries without visas, the same strict food safety as Europe and America, the same education systems as Europe and America.

bbk2022 [网易广东省深圳市网友]:

Although Hong Kong looks a bit more run down than many mainland cities, I still feel Hong Kong is 100 years ahead of the mainland. Some things do not depend on the level of development of reinforced concrete cities, but rather society.


Living in bird cages yet their hearts fly.

春江渔舟 [网易广东省河源市网友]: (responding to above)

For them in their snail homes, as long as they work hard and struggle, they can purchase a good home.
For those in China, no matter how hard we struggle, we will always live in snail homes, unless your dad is Li Gang.

关评论得天下 [网易上海市网友]:

“…the burden of the world’s heaviest housing prices.” The mainland’s rabble laugh without words.

lxykkuu [网易广东省深圳市网友]:

Hong Kongers unable to afford homes is thanks to major contributions by Li Ka-shing.

海上钓鳌客 [网易山东省潍坊市网友]:

Are there forced demolitions there?

2484976 [网易江苏省苏州市网友]:

If Hong Kongers have something they’re unhappy, they go on the streets [and protest]… can those on the mainland…?

gewalamengtu [网易河北省邯郸市网友]:

So what gives Hong Kongers the qualification to look down on the mainland?
Hong Kong is just a heaven for the rich!

zjtzyl [网易浙江省台州市网友]:

How does it have the world’s heaviest housing price burden? I as a mainlander express serious disagreement. Please make public Hong Kong’s per capita income and housing prices.

wecanbetter [网易英国网友]:

There is poverty everywhere, but their ZF has accomplishments and works hard for change!

幸福的草泥马 [网易江苏省南通市网友]:

So why is there still so many people doing everything they can to go there?

男老师头套着女内裤打麻将 [网易广东省河源市网友]:

Hong Kongers look like they have money, but in reality an entire family is cramped inside a single room, with the son and daughter-in-law on the top bunk and two old people on the bottom bunk. When the son and daughter-in-law want to fuck, they don’t dare fuck too hard.

你说点真话能死啊 [网易辽宁省大连市网友]:

Hong Kong has no land that can be used and no room that can be lived in so the housing prices are relatively high. In the mainland, there are empty houses everywhere and housing prices are still astronomical and won’t come down, why is this?

dongxf [网易广东省深圳市网友]:

Asia’s richest man is Li Ka-shing, and a bunch of real estate developers, such as Walter Kwok and family…

The money of Hong Kong’s ordinary common people has all been taken away by the real estate developers. A lifetime of hard work and actually its all working for Li Ka-shing and them.

Mainland China’s real estate developers watch them with envy, working hard towards the same direction.

dali668 [网易辽宁省鞍山市网友]:

An objective look at the housing conditions of Hong Kong’s disadvantaged social groups. I wonder if they feel blessed/happy.


High density residences at the same time protects the green outskirts. 5 minutes out the door and you can go hiking and enjoy nature, can you do that on the mainland? Go look at Google satellite maps and you’ll see.

zengfei37 [网易广东省佛山市网友]:

Why don’t they have family planning [in Hong Kong, to control the population]!!!

pahdl [网易浙江省金华市网友]:

Liberate Hong Kong, let our Hong Kong compatriots enjoy the superiority of a socialist system!

What was the smallest living conditions you have experienced?

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • mr. wiener

    cramped sofa

  • No matter what the story, Chinese netizens always assume the position of victims.

    There I have said it.

    • ADF

      and they never thought of doing something to change it

    • Chunghwa

      I was under the impression that the comments are cherry-picked.

      Just like, dare I say, Sankakucomplex.

      • Dr Dust Cell

        You mean Shitkaku Complex.

      • dim mak

        Nope, it’s always the top rated comments
        Check netease

        People just love to whine

    • Cleo

      only a few years after the HK handover did the HK media encourage normal HK people to think differently and selfpityingly. Originally, I think they needed operatives to protest for democracy and less wealth disparity. Obviously, people have jumped on the bandwagon. However, the Overseas Chinese I knew and the HKers I met were not wont to take government handouts. They felt above that though they lived a threadbare existence. And the usual and proper response to HK government providing housing is gratitude and a sparkle in the eye that HK should be so kind. Some people on the street still express such sentiments when interviewed.

    • Jack

      Ha…looks like locusts from main land China live better than so called lion from hong kong who despise the main landers.

      I don’t understand what makes HKGer think they are better…they live in a filth controlled by bureaucrats and elite who suck their life out of living in a cramped apartment….Its just outside glamor and pomp of democracy…the fact of the matter if in the pictures above….only less than 1% of elite live a decent life..rest of all live in a cage worse than animals…look at the housing..it looks like some third world African country

      • oOWOo

        In reality it is not like the introduction suggests that 47% of people live in public housing that shitty. Those pictures show the poorest of the poor in the city.

        Ever been to a factory dorm? Try to compare HKs poor with mainlands poor and then see who has a better life. Other reasons why mainlanders flood HK like locusts are mentionned in the first comments. HKers have every right to look down on the masses of bad behaved mainlanders…

        • Cleo

          They can’t all be misbehaving. The Mainlanders are the ones who invented ancient Chinese refinement that the Koreans and Japanese now claim as their own, right? The Hongkong Chinese who succeed are still using their Chinese cultural heritage. Bananas don’t succeed in the real world.

          So no one has a right to look down on Mainlanders. I never met a sloppy one in Beijing. The dirty messy ones were the Japanese both male and female. They left uncooked food out for over a week in the shared dorm kitchen. No one touched it but everyone knew who it belonged to. Finally the nice Chinese miss had to dispose of it for them and I still feel bad that I didn’t just deliver that mess to the people I knew had left it there. That’s just not right!

          • oOWOo

            HKers did not go through several decades of maoism, cultural revolution and brain washing and therefor still are connected to the 5,000 years of Chinese culture.

            And when 28 Million mainlanders a year suddenly flood the streets of HK, with rude behaviour, jumping the lines and basically thinking that they can behave like they do in Shenzhen, while filling up the maternity clinics to produce welfare babies, then it is normal that it triggers some negative responses from the general HK population.

      • Maxwell Jaxwell

        they are all chinese. When Hong Kong became majority chinese, it was destined to become nothing but another ant colony of cheap labor. DNA determines culture, it determines life. This is what china always has been and always will be, a sea of destitute supporting a very small number of elites.

        • Alex Dương

          Hong Kong has always been majority Chinese.

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            no, it has not. It was a british colony and the chinese were originally not allowed in many parts of it. It’s culture and traditions, it’s government, everything was of British origin. Now the founding influences and culture of the British are all but gone and it is reverting to a pure chinese form.

          • Alex Dương

            Yes, it was. Just because it was a British colony doesn’t mean it was majority British. I hope you don’t think India was ever majority British during company or crown rule.

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            IT was majority British for the first decades of it’s existence. Sorry if this fact is inconvenient for you, you have the right to an opinion but not to a fact. Your opinion is is wrong, the facts are that it was majority British for the first few decades of it’s existence.

          • Alex Dương
          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            yes, it is. When the british arrived there were nothing but some clans farming rice. The british quickly outnumbered them and it was originally a colony for British merchants. The chinese coolies were very small in numbers at first. You can type in red all day, does’;t change history.

          • Alex Dương

            Of course history doesn’t change. Your claim is simply wrong. 121,907 > 1,604.

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            what is the year? Are you including the “new territories” before they were a part of “Hong Kong”? When the British first set up merchant housing there were only a handful of rice farmers in the area, nowhere near 100, 000.

          • Alex Dương

            You can’t read the text from the screenshot?

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            you can’t answer a question? What year are you referencing and does your reference include the new territories?

          • Alex Dương

            The answer to your question is on the screenshot.

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            there is no screen shot, just answer the question and stop playing silly games

          • Alex Dương

            Well, why didn’t you say so? It’s for 1862. You can see it for yourself on page 17 here. Of course, 1862 predates 1898, so the New Territories are not included.

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            so then , you are correct as far as total numbers go, but it was the British that created the culture of Hong Kong and ran Hong Kong The Chinese were not allowed in many areas. They did not even break into the merchant class until around the turn of the century. Hong Kong exists as Hong Kong because of the British. It has turned into what it is because of the Chinese. So your point is rather irrelevant other than it shows that the Chinese tend to exist in overcrowded conditions.

          • Alex Dương

            Good, you have some intellectual honesty at least. Though I have absolutely no idea where you learned during your “study” the “fact” that British Hong Kong was majority British for the first few decades of its history.

    • IT seems the Chinese never win. If they complain that the Mainland is even worse, then they are “always assuming the position of victims”. If they don’t, then they are nationalistic and brainwashed. what would you have them say?

      • Little Wolf

        Yes, but at least they have you to do their whining for them.

      • D. Tective

        As a foreigner, when I hear my Chinese friends complain about their own living conditions, I never feel them as having a victim complex. Now, when they start blaming foreigners and foreign countries for their own personal living conditions, that’s another story.

      • I am sorry Jixiang but can you not see that you just assumed the position of a victim?

        I didnt mean to generalise, I am just going of the comments posted here and my experiences with Chinese friends over the years, so far you have proved me right.

        Anyway, fell free to come back with something other than moaning. I’ve been to far too many third world nations to know that China is not that desperately bad. Maybe that’s the answer… when Chinese start paying more attention to the rest of the world they will realise things are not so bad at home but hey what do I know?

        • 1) I am not Chinese

          2) I agree that other third world countries are worse than China in terms of living conditions. Most Chinese clearly compare themselves to the West or Japan and not to such places, which exist on the borderline of their consciousness. You can find this phenomenon in other third world countries too.

      • Maxwell Jaxwell

        the chinese will win when they keep their legs crossed and stop reproducing. A person will not be free unless they are willing to pay the price. They are a race that self breeds to be cheap slave labor. They accept conditions that would have led other races to burn down and destroy the whole rotten place.

        • Alex Dương

          The nineteenth century called. It wants its stereotypes back.

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            stereotypes are valid, they exist for a reason. The ninetys are calling and they want their brainwashed ignorance back.

          • Alex Dương

            Yeah, the reason is usually a combination of a laziness and ignorance. That pretty much sums up all the posts you’ve made in the last two hours on an article from three years ago.

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            you posts are nothing but a denial of reality because of ethnic pride. The history of China is quite clear, and I have studied it. The culture has been remarkably consistent for thousands of years. There has been no variation in the arts nor anything else. Throughout it’s existence it has almost always been a place where the masses lived in grinding poverty while a small elite lived in extravagant luxury. It has not changed. Periods where the middle class grows are such as in the Tang and Sung, are short lived and followed by periods where society is strictly divided between a small elite and masses of poor. Hong Kong shows us in a rather sped up fashion what happens to chinese people when there is a free market that allows the middle class to grow- it is VERY short lived and leads to much of the middle class falling down into the masses of the destitute while only a small number escape into the class of the elite. The structure of chinese civilization is consistent through the ages and totally different from the civilizations of Europe. The chinese , and east asians in general, are much more subservient to authority than Europeans. Almost all of their history has been one of autocracy whereas in Europe periods of such strict autocracy have been rather rare and rulers have usually have accepted power sharing with parliaments, all things, senates etc.. There has never been a state such as North Korea in Europe for the very reason that Europeans are wired differently than asians, they simply would not tolerate it, in short, asians are cowards, and they will accept living in a dog cage if it comes down to that. They do not innovate either because of this cowardice. They are comfortable being nothing but a cog in a machine.

          • Alex Dương

            The chinese , and east asians in general, are much more subservient to authority than Europeans.

            Yes, of course, that’s why in Chinese history, the Mandate of Heaven was conditional whereas in European history, Divine Right of Kings was unconditional. Because Chinese are more subservient to authority than Europeans. Obviously. 2+2=5.

            There has never been a state such as North Korea in Europe for the very reason that Europeans are wired differently than asians, they simply would not tolerate it, in short, asians are cowards, and they will accept living in a dog cage if it comes down to that.

            Yep, because, y’know, the German people totally didn’t tolerate Hitler. And the Russian people totally didn’t tolerate Stalin.

          • Maxwell Jaxwell

            Divine right of Kings is not the same thing as the “mandate of heaven”. I guess to a chinese person an apple is an orange is a pear. AS far as Germany goes, the conditions were totally different for the German people that the conditions are for the north Korean people. You really must learn more about his programs and stop having a childish knee jerk reaction. Playing the old “Hitler” card is rather trite and show a lack of intelligence. A sample of some of his programs: he gave state loans to young families to buy houses and a percentage of the loan was forgiven for each child they had up to I think the fifth child, when the loan was totally forgiven. Another sample: foreigners had swept into Germany when it’s currency was devalued during the Weimar republic and they bought up family farms that had been held in those families for generations. Hitler reversed all of those sales, reimbursing the foreign purchasers with the worthless cash they bought the farms for. The country went from high unemployment to nearly full employment. There were no people starving to death in the streets nor people eating their children as in North Korea. Contrary to the propaganda of the victors the German people were rather happy in Nazi Germany and they look back upon the prewar years as being very good.

          • Alex Dương

            Stormfront’s that way, pal.

    • typingfromwork

      So true. Chinese netizens are champions at whining.

      • Turner

        Searching the net, you’ll easily find nowasday every Americans netizens are trying real hard to be the best at moaning. I dont blame them as they truly have no reason to be happy.

        • Little Wolf

          Well…I’ve got sunshine and I’ve got rhythm. Who could ask for anything more?

  • linette

    In Hong Kong…..For them in their snail homes, as long as they work hard and struggle, they can eventually purchase a good home.
    For those in China, no matter how hard we struggle, we will always live in snail homes,

    So true.

    • See above comment.

      • Brett Hunan

        Lol don.

    • Cleo

      The ladies who push dim sum carts in Hong Kong live in such housing but in America, they eventually buy a cheap starter home across the street from my own.

    • wacky

      yeah, looks like those 80 year old people did not work hard enough so they ended up in these shoebox, i think if they want to work hard for another 20 years they would have a chance to have another shoebox

  • [email protected]

    Bring on the underground vault housing and underwater sea-vault housing.

    But seriously, many Japanese flats are smaller still and their homes don’t look like a glimpse into the life of a disheveled hoarder as most of these pics seem to show.

    • Cleo

      Japanese had hoarders cleaning services long before Americans even knew about hoarding as a psychological problem. And there are photography books focusing on cluttered homes in Japan. Don’t try to act superior based on lies on a Chinese web site, Octopus Pornster

      • [email protected]

        “Don’t try to act superior”, says Cleo while trying to act superior.

    • dim mak

      >implying hoarding is a bad thing

      We like to keep our houses full of STUFF

      • Alan

        As opposed to ever throwing anything away.

        Oh, the drama!

      • Ami

        Fire Hazards and filthy! Niubi!

  • wacky

    old people after working all their life ended up living in as shoebox.
    perfect example of a society cheered by western pro democracy

    • whiskersthecat

      Perfect example of a society placed on tiny little pieces of land, overflowing with people, with more people trying to get in. Where do you expect them to build mansions for the elderly?

      • wacky

        or those old people simply did not work hard enough and end up living in these shoe box.
        or just hk system that is not working.

        • Joe

          How is the system not working? Did you see what types of jobs those people had? One’s quality of life should be determined by what value they create for society.

          • wacky

            from what i see so far HK society is a society proud of its mixed culture of east and west, and to say that hk is one of the developed place in asia. if hk is so proud of its western like model and to some extend its british heritage and system (at least by some comments i’ve read on the several sites) why cant they make western like system as well, as we know that before the crisis europe had the best social security system in the world.
            we could say that european style socialism is a socialism that was working well at least until the crisis.

        • whiskersthecat

          I am sure that I could go to the cheapest place in the US or China…two countries is a ton of land, #1 and #2 economies, two different governing systems…and find old people who live in a tiny, messy home and take photos of them. It would be the easiest photojournalism series ever.

          Sometimes people don’t have money. Socialism isn’t going to fill up an average elderly person’s pockets any more than any other existing program.

      • Maxwell Jaxwell

        this is the same anywhere one goes in China. It
        ‘s history has been nothing but a repetition of a cycle of huge population growth to the point of massive social unrest where the majority of people are killed and then a repetition of the whole process. Sichuan province was once almost totally depopulated in such a cycle.

    • Maxwell Jaxwell

      this is the very essence of chinese culture. The masses will be subservient for the very small elite. They will quietly and obediently suffer all sorts of depravations and indignities that no other race on the world would suffer. This is not a strength, it is their weakness. They become nothing but a giant ant colony, dehumanized, where life has no meaning at all.

  • Torgrim

    I just want to say that now my 300 square foot Tai Wo Estates apartment feels big.

  • Cleo

    One of the tenants has no hands. Disability support is still inadequate unfortunately. Does this mean Singapore works better than Hong Kong?

  • dim mak

    My dad lives in a place like that, the building is smaller but the inside is a bit bigger with a bathroom
    When I have more monies I will find a nice place in Canada for him ; ;

    • Cleo

      Can’t you afford something in HK? He will stagnate in Canada and the Chinese food will never be as good. Also, he will lose self confidence as a minority on the street.

      • Wild Rumpus

        Cleo – I’m new here but I see you keep commenting on things you know nothing about. I’ll bet dim mak is from Vancouver, Canada. We have the largest historic Chinatown in North America, nearby Richmond is known as “Golden Village” and the street signs all are in English and Chinese. We have a number of cultural ghettoes where only Mandarin is spoken. Vancouver is often referred to as Hongcouver since so many Hong Kong people came to Vancouver just before the hand off. Most neighbourhoods have a selection of Chinese restaurants representing all the different areas of China, and downtown Vancouver has restaurants that are famous for creating new and fusion Chinese food menus. Chinese New Years is also one of the most widely celebrated festivals in all of Vancouver.

        When dim mak’s Dad comes to Vancouver, he will no doubt move to a neighbourhood where he can speak with many people in his native tongue (and probably dialect), eat food at restaurants that remind him of his mothers, and, while he won’t be a majority, he won’t particularly stand out as a minority either.

    • D. Tective

      Why in Canada? What’s wrong in the Mainland? Much cheaper to buy a house in the countryside. You can get a home in the countryside of Heilongjiang for 6000 dollars.

      • dim mak

        I ain’t sending my ba to Heilongjiang to live in some frozen shack

        • Wallimo

          Lol, but Canada is warm? Had to point that out.

          • Cleo

            There’s the idea that Canada is safer albeit lonelier than anywhere on the Mainland where the local worms will scent the vulnerable pigeon and rip you off before killing you. And that is why you do not retire to the Philippines. Google how many Japanese retire to there and DIE within a year.

  • Notorious

    oh, these are nice cozy little homes. those apartments are about the size of one of my closets. The nice looking 84 year old lady looks peaceful and her home is the nicest/warmest/inviting in appearance.

  • Alan

    I would like to buy this book, those photographs of the skyscrapers are amazing, very arty.

    Liberate Hong Kong, let our Hong Kong compatriots enjoy the superiority of a socialist system!

    This quote from one of the wumao brigade made me laugh. Superiority? A system that died in the rest of the world apart from Cuba and North Korea….and who on earth wants to move to those two places,on the axis of evil?

  • Cleo

    At least, HKers never blamed bad behavior on the genuine stress of living in poverty. Why DOES wealthier Japan have problems like Seito Sakakibara?

  • eattot

    hmm, i dislike this kind of life at all.
    i dislike to live in small state.i dislike to live in cage, even can not have sex.i dislike to have a lot neighbours,not at all.

    • Z-Dawg

      You are so hot!

    • Dripping Third Leg

      eattor, i see you are in season, care to breed ?

    • Castro

      oh, we’ll find a way to have sex, don’t you worry my little dumpling… how’s about a bikini avatar for your Fan Club ?!?

      • Alan

        Amen to that dude! WTG Castro….

        • Castro

          thx bro…


          Dictator for Life
          – Eattot Fan Club

          ‘Eattot Rox Alot!’

          • Alan

            Damnit! I picture her as a schoolgirl, all pigtails and sweet and innocent……as I don my wizard hat and robe.

            She does rock castro dude, totally!

    • whiskersthecat

      eattot, your pheromones reek of disease and a past of hole abuse.
      However, that coming from you seems to attract me. Choose me for your mate in this ovulation period.

  • natsumerio

    It’s easy to call these people hoarders when EVERYTHING that they own (with the exception of things like cars & so on) is stuffed into one 100 square foot room. That said though, some of these people are unquestionably hoarders. Seriously, some of those places looked as packed as landfills. We’re not even talking MINOR hoarding. Some of these people are taking their hoarding-ness clear up to the CEILING! Me, I can honestly say that I own less than 1/10th of what some of these NON-hoarders own. They’re practically burying themselves alive in their possessions.

    • Alan

      They’re practically burying themselves alive in their possessions.

      Agreed, does the ex clothing factory worker guy even have air con? Even with a fan, how can he sleep at night?!

  • Dat Ankle

    Chung Ying is the only one (besides the two kids) who seems to have her shit down and organize. Everyone else is living that hoarders life.

    • Little Wolf

      To be fair…she seems to have the most cupboards and closets.

      • Dat Ankle

        Na, she just seems to know how to throw things away.

        • Little Wolf

          That too….

  • The Enlightened One

    Well, at least the government helped find them housing rather than sticking them on the streets to live under overpasses and in subway stations. I heard that people from HK can move to the mainland at anytime they want so I guess they were even prefer to live in these cramped apartments that cross the border into the Motherland and try their luck there.

    Anyone know if this is true?

  • jeffli

    And Shanghai?……?

  • Not that I’m saying they’re having it easy, but the interior photos show rooms packed with stuff (garbage) they probably don’t use or need. If they were to throw away some of that unused stuff I’m pretty sure they can create a bit more space in those rooms.

    My room used to be as crowded until one day I had the ‘Eureka!’ moment after reading a post on the excellent Zenhabits blog.

  • bscalled

    why complain about something that cannot be changed – it’s not like there’s a lot of space in HK.

  • Dawei

    The housing situation is like this, half the population live in government subsidized housing, the rent for which is very low. The other half live in their own home or privately rented accommodation. Getting a Gov house is a long term wait and so for some the only option a cage home.

    Land supply is controlled by the government as they own 99.9 percent of all land in Hong Kong, they sell off long term leases for new development but control supply as they do not wish to see house prices fall. Clearly not enough public housing is being provided. As a side note cheap public housing really does not benefit the poor directly by giving them extra money in their pocket, rather it enables business to pay lower wages, without which they would either have to close or reduce staff numbers. The whole game here is to give those who are older and without education and option to make a living, though a very meager one.

    Old age benefits in HK are very modest and do not cover much, most elderly residents rely on their Children and charity hand outs. It is a bare bones life for some. The retired are the worst off , they missed out on HK growth and development from a workshop to a service economy because of lack of education.

    The sad truth is that for a section of society here, they would be far better off, apart from medical care) if they lived on the mainland.

    House prices have gone up sharply over the last two years due to the falling dollar, low interest rates and mainland money buying up luxury apartments. The latter actually affects everyone because those who previously lived in the luxury apartment move down the ladder, and so on resulting in an increase in house prices across the board.

    So we will see what Leung comes up with when he gets into office.

    • simon

      who would have thought HK life for the average joe there would be this depressing. All you hear about in the news is the prosperity of HK, little do you hear about the conditions of these people.

      Thanks for the insight, honestly agree about the better off in the mainland point, i don’t see how these people are any better off materially.

    • wacky

      are you from hk? i would like to ask you some question
      as we know that hk was under british rule and from what i see on some internet forum hkers are proud of the british colonial rule and especially the system. i want to know how advance was the british social system back then? considering that these people on the photo had lived there prior to the handover, and how was and is hongkong compare to other england and other british colonies australia or canada? (i think that many hkers move to canada)
      and finaly can hk government implement european style socialism in hk?

      • Dawei

        Wacky, Not born here but I have been here a fairly long time. The British did a good job of putting in place a strong Government civil service, and rule of law. They were for the most part not afraid to speak there mind. It was a fairly good partnership, the Colonial Government provided the stable trustworthy system and the Chinese population added their flare for entrepreneurship and hard work. No one can deny however, that the british here were privalaged, but this did not stop the Chinese from rising up, by the time of the handover 99 percent of all Gov staff were Chinese and most of the companies originally started by british entrepreneurs were owned by Chinese (Swire and CLP is an exception). One thing of note the colonial government did not listen much to Westminster, for example in the early seventies when they were requested to support the pound they refused. Not that it was all sunshine and singing birds under colonial rule there were gaping difficulties right up to the handover but HK did make great progress on social, economic and education well being under their administration.

        Since the handover, our lovable leaders have fallen over themselves to make sure they keep Beijing happy, we have also seen increased cronyism between the Gov and private sector, corruption in education is on the rise and so on. We have seen stagnation in the legislator (more a systemic fault of the electoral system), and huge tracks of land left empty (old Kai Tack airport and the west Kowloon “cultural desert” previously under colonial rule the british admistrators acted as a check on local nepotism, but after the handover with this removed things started to decline. The public have been for a long time apathetic but I sense now they have had enough and this is in evidence when we see the direct impact public anger had in Leungs victory over the dead cert Tang. I am somewhat positive, and I see that the people are rising to make their voice heard. At the end of the day you get the government you deserve.

  • moop
    • simon

      i don’t see how the link is related to this article, unsure if there is a point being made but interesting read nonetheless.

  • Dr SUN

    HK is a fun place to visit once or twice a year, but the shoe box living is a bit much, as is their nasty attitude to us Mainlanders.

    And the food is way to sweet, ever heard of Chili, turmeric, cilantro, pepper, salt ?

    • Cleo

      Yet Hongkong is composed of Mainlanders. There was nobody on those rocks except Chow Yun Fat’s ancestors before and they certainly didn’t create the economic paradise. It’s not about Mainlanders because this is not Korea and Japan hating the descendants of their Santa Claus. When you see a lovely person like a Zhang Ziyi or a Wong Faye even without money, you like them, right? So this is definitely about a toxic element in the local population being encouraged to rear their ugly heads. As a Chinese American, I can definitely say that the mean ones do bully outsiders especially using sophisticated and arcane Cantonese to try to trip you up. You can not buy them or appease them, they simply see the opportunity to draw blood and they take it. That’s life – there are bad Chinese people everywhere but in HK, the bad ones have been trained to retreat in the face of stronger heroes BUT they see Mainlanders as open season – they have money and they are innocent and they are finally ready to be traveling. It’s lovely and sad that they finally get to have the fun of travel but people who aren’t rich in HK see this as an opportunity to fleece someone of their hard earned money. What is being REPORTED in HK is actually won’t be reported in Korea or Japan because of course, they will never want the rest of the world to know what they are really feeling about the boost to their economies. Keep an eye on the international scene when negative reports come from Chinese sources about Chinese people being terrible to one another. We are still in the midst of a world war and ordinary Chinese have to be protected in ways that are very painful for the treasure being guarded.

  • typingfromwork

    Chinese netizens doing the self loathing crap even when looking at someone else living in some pretty grim conditions. I swear if they did a photo series on some slums there will still be retards commenting on how “at least they have freedom” and “in their hearts they are happy” or some other soppy bullshit like that.

    But then that’s not so different from middle class self loathing dipsticks here who marvel at how good a life some people have while living in mudhuts with no electricity. “Look at how happy they are being one with nature!” cries out these people from their comfortable semi detached homes, while the people on the over end are constantly malnorished, have shockingly high infant mortality rates and die regularly from preventable diseases like cholera. Fucking happy indeed.

    • Cleo

      Why doesn’t the German photographer at least help the tenant with no hands with the proceeds of this book? If I win the lottery all by myself, I will have to help that guy with no hands. Is it WRONG to want to win the lottery all by myself?

  • suck you

    And millions of mainland still want to go there. No wonder the Hong Kong people hate the mainlanders.

    • Cleo

      It’s uncomfortable in China and even NYC compared to HK with their perfect subway system and somehow affordable air conditioning in public spaces and malls. You can’t blame everyone for wanting what the majority of HKers lucked out on but didn’t actually earn for themselves or deserve – they just got out of China earlier, you know?

      And anyway, the really golden Chinese may be present throughout Hongkong but they are thick on the ground in places of integrity like Beijing. Look back on the years of expat residency in both cities and ALWAYS always always, the taxi drivers in Beijing are praised, mandarin is picked up swiftly with the help fo the generous locals whereas taxi drivers in HK will insult you especially if you dare to speak fluent Cantonese and few expats bother to become fluent not because the signs are all bilingual but because of local hostility. The golden Chinese can land in ANY geographic location and make that place shine. If the right Chinese land in Belleville, Paris will finally have good dim sum.

      HK cannot attract foreign investment without quality Chinese so you really do want the Mainlanders who can take university spots away from the locals. You WANT the shiny ones to love Hongkong.

      Anyway, this is a lesson to the Mainlanders about the toxic Shanghainese and Cantonese that they’ve heard only the vaguest intimations of. There are bad people who didn’t contribute to making the Chinese fantastic for millenia, they will sell you out to the Japanese, they will abuse your children when you are not looking and after years of protective education on the Mainland and looong nap, the Mainlanders en masse are ready to be trained to see THIS and then they can deal with the Koreans and the Japanese and the Germans in a very Hongkong way because the Hongkongers can and do deal with the Koreans and Japanese and Germans in their midst.

  • Cleo

    If you look at how Hongkong is built up. This could be anywhere but why is it here? Because it’s really too hot in HK and it doesn’t have its own water supply. The way it is built up like a five star hotel attracts foreigners especially anti-Chinese who want to be in our midst anyway. So why HERE?

    It could change on a dime. China pulls the lever and HK will no longer be the popular girl. Remember when the Mayor built Sunnydale for demons to feed on? That’s California for sure hence the Germans, Japanese and Koreans there. But Hongkong looks overdressed – WHY?

    I know how impossible to run any eatery and there is huge turnover in HK retail AND I know that the majority of HKers are on a budget so why is HK the way it is? NYC wouldn’t need THAT many malls especially with dedicated skating rinks in them. Why is the Central/Admirality streets so unstrollable. Hong Kong island alone is covered in bunkers and we don’t actually need any reclamation.

    • Buffy

      A Buffy the Vampire reference – w0000t !

  • Cleo

    So it’s okay to kowtow and accept permanent residency of the tribe that raped Chinese babies but the descendants of the victims who are still struggling should be abused and shown there is no justice or kindness in this world? REALLY? Because kindness is why the disenfranchised noncompetitive have a subsidized roof over their heads so they can continue to claim to be authentic Hongkongers. It would be cheaper to house them in Canton province, right?

    • Dr SUN

      Are you saying that mainlanders raped your babies of new born to 1, 2, even toddlers 3, 4, 5 year old, is that what you saying ?

      Can you provide evidence ?

    • lol

      Cleo…You need to fresh air.let’s away from the PC…

  • Carlyle

    It’s because you Mainlanders keep coming to HK, boosting population, occupying our public housing, private housing, streets….. etc

    Stop coming!! You are definitely not welcome!

    and please note: most of the people shown in the pictures above are Mainlanders!

    Simply speaking, you stay in China. I stay in HK.

    I don’t come to your place and you don’t come to mine.

    I said it.

    • wacky

      some of those people has been living in that shoebox for more than 20 years and the photos are from 2006. how could they be mainlander? hk was under british rule back then (the proudest thing hkers always say)
      hk is proud of their british colonial master and system yet the system is nowhere near european socialist system.

      i went to hk 3 times last year and to singapore once, i can fell the difference right after entering the city. hk is full of shabby old building even the city center (the exact same scene i often see from 1980s and 1990s hk movies) are full of immigrant everywhere i saw black people, indian, filipinos and indonesian domestic workers (all the thing you also complain about).

      • Dr SUN

        HK was not under British rule in 2006, British left in the late 1990’s, get your facts right Wacky.

        • wacky

          yeah and theses people had lived in this shoebox even before the handover look at the pictures and read the article please , so my fact is these shoebox has nothing to do with the handover or the mainlander.

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  • GreenGestalt

    Too bad the government (in Singapore) tore down “The Walled City of Kowloon”… That was even more efficient…


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  • Fu ZhiGao

    Hey, Fauna, I know it’s not included in the original story, but you may want to add that 100 square feet is about 9.3 sq. m

  • Dr SUN

    Never knew that HK people liked to sleep on a bamboo mat (thought that was just a mainland village persons thing).

    The woman in the last Photo has made her place look good, not like the other pics full of trash.

  • DRaY

    HOng KOng is shit .

    • Dr SUN

      Thank you for your stimulating and well thought out post.

  • I’m impressed. This must be tough. I’m lucky not to be living in a concrete jungle like that…

  • Olrik

    Gor blimey, they lives as animals they do!

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  • Misaki

    As the guest post/feature says, “Many of the middle-aged middle classes also store their life savings in their flats and fear the prospect of cheaper housing, even if their own kids are priced out of the market.”

    It’s nothing more than inequality, which causes people to accept high prices for a product which doesn’t cost an equivalent amount to produce.

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  • Maxwell Jaxwell

    Many of these apartments have no windows, no natural light. They are just coffins in the sky.

  • Maxwell Jaxwell

    Demographics is destiny. The British are what made Hong Kong a special place, now that it is almost all chinese it is nothing but a giant ant colony of chinese. There is no beauty, nothing special, just millions of worker ants. China has always been and always will be a place where people don’t matter, where they are cheap labor.

  • starchild

    I hope that the peoples of China, and Tibet, and Xinjiang, and Hong Kong learn their history well enough to understand the oppressive and corrupt nature of the Communist Party regime that rules from Beijing. That they learn the truth about what happened in Tian Anmen square in 1989, despite the regime whitewashing, that they learn about heroes and martyrs like Lin Zhao. That they do not buy into the regime’s nationalist propaganda and think that their worst enemies are people in Japan, the United States, or elsewhere. The worst enemies of the people in China and occupied Tibet and Xinjiang are the rulers in Beijing, just as the worst enemies of people in Japan are the elite in Tokyo, and the worst enemies of people in the United States and occupied tribal lands are the elite in Washington D.C. People of the world must unite and throw off the oppressors and not allow them to manipulate us against each other!