I worked in Hong Kong from 2010 to 2012. The first thing I did when I settled down there was buy a DSLR camera. This is a quick account of my strolls and wanders in these urban and green jungles, trying to capture Hong Kong’s contradictions.
Green and grey jungle
Hong Kong is known for being the city with the most skyscrapers in the world, with one of the highest population densities. Yet, the urban area covers only 5% of the whole territory of Hong Kong. The country parks and special areas cover a total area of 440 km2.
RURALITY and URBANITY
In a 40-minute drive from the city centre, you have access to remote villages now abandoned. Farmers and fishermen who lived in these rural areas were partly subsidized by the Hong Kong government. In the 1950s and 1960s, attracted by the prospects of a better quality of life in the city and threatened by the cessation of public subsidies, they left everything behind to find work in town.
The Gini in de(x) bottle
Hong Kong has more Rolls-Royce cars per capita than any other city in the world. It remains the 4th city in the world in terms of personal luxury goods spending.
Yet, 1.34 million people were living below the official poverty line in 2015. 1 person out of 5 is poor in Hong Kong. About a third of Hong-Kongese residents aged over 65 live in poverty. Many are picking cardboard and selling them to recycling centres.
Trade represents 22% of Hong Kong's GDP and workforce. Thanks to its location and history, Hong Kong always benefitted from specific regulations developed to attract foreigners and investors.
While in China, gambling is illegal (except for the national lottery). Hong Kong and Macau both benefit from special regulations which allow casinos and gambling. The Hong Kong Jockey Club has a legal monopoly over betting on horse racing and football. Total betting and lottery net revenue was amounting to EUR3.6 billion in 2017.
SEA AND THE CITY
In a century, Hong Kong has reclaimed more than 60 square kilometres of land to the sea. In October 2003, Greenpeace said that the Central Reclamation would create 580,000 cubic metres of toxic silt. Hong-Kongese government now envisions a 1,000-hectare man-made island in the middle of the sea to resolve a projected shortfall of 1,200 hectares of land for housing and economic development by 2030.
With white sand and clear sky, the beaches could look like any on a paradise island. Beaches are swamped by trash and pollutants from industries based along the Pearl River delta. During summers, huge algae blooms blanket the sea and beaches in Hong Kong, due to the Pearl River pollution by fertilizers.
Overfishing and environmental pollution from Pearl River delta are constituting serious threats for the last fisheries. For instance, Tai O used to be a very important trading and fishing port. With fishing in decline, white dolphin watching and tourism seem to be Tai O's drawcard.
As an important place of trade, Hong Kong has historically welcomed merchants and immigrants from all around the world, leaving the space, at least mentally, to follow their religions, traditions and customs.