Were it not for its mountainous terrains, Hong Kong would not have been dubbed the world’s most vertical city.
Occupying an infinitesimal carve out of Chinese land, and a few hundred outlying islands, all of which are no larger than 1100 sq km, Hong Kong can only afford to provide to its 7.2 million inhabitants approximately one-fifth of its total areas, given the geographically steep contours, virtually on all its entire spaces. Even the skyline on Big Apple, the first major city on Earth to proudly attest its nature-defying abilities with supertall skyscrapers, is no match to the enormity – and the monstrosity and all its narrow-gauge compactness – of the skyline in Hong Kong. New York City, in a century, has built over 4000 high-rise buildings, mostly in Manhattan; Hong Kong has put up to 8000 in half a centenary, scattered all over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories.
Sum it up, in historical sweepstakes, with its integrated 99-year rule by British Empire. Firstly concentrated on manufacturing, the government, realizing the potential impacts China’s open market reforms could impede on its economic growth, created a brand-new experiment to jack up its popularity as a global city: laissez-faire market, mainly on financial and trading sectors, with government intervention almost null-and-void. Thus is the brand-new Hong Kong we recognize today: glitzy skyscrapers, burgeoning elites, vibrant streets and markets, beyond-excellent infrastructure, and highly flexible bureaucracy.
Nevertheless, the environment simulated by the laissez-faire system has also procreated ruthless competition among individuals to achieve paramount success, enforced the people’s appetites to far-reaching extents, and pushed them for more recognition upon their higher social echelons. Driven even further by China’s economic boom, by which numberless mainland Chinese, mostly parvenus, have begun to enter the competition, the contest has been itself increasingly arduous. This is evident, particularly, from one major detail: more and more mainland Chinese are buying up apartments and condominiums, the already-exorbitant prices of which having been marked up by major real-estate developers bulk of the locals, self-dubbed ‘Hongkongers’ can barely afford in their lifetime.
As a consequence, social gap has increasingly exacerbated in the last decade. Despite the fact there are up to 100,000 millionaires and multimillionaires living lavish lives in over-sized condominiums, or to a lesser extent, mansions on mountain peaks, it is also estimated that more than 170,000 people in Hong Kong are struggling to live in cubicle-sized, stacked boxes they call ‘homes’, most of whom are former construction and industrial workers having been displaced due to the city’s dwindling industrial sectors.
In short, the race itself is not going to stop anytime soon.
The New York Times has published an article and a slide show to document the plight of Hong Kong’s poorest, each of whom is struggling to find a better home for oneself.