Mong Kok’s degeneration hardly the result of ‘mainlandisation’

The district has long been the underbelly of Hong Kong, and among the most crowded and polluted places on earth. So let’s not romanticise it too much, especially using it as a falsely idealised place to demonise mainlanders

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 12:54am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

The old Kowloon Walled City was a den of iniquities under the British. Mong Kok was never far behind. But after the infamous “city” was bulldozed and rebuilt, Mong Kok took over as the primary district where all vices known to man flourish.

It is indeed a fascinating place, where all sorts of taste, interest and perversity, however outlandish, may seek satisfaction at a reasonable price. It has also been the site of social unrest, from the massive taxi strike of 1984 to the Occupy movement and the riot on the Lunar New Year.

It is what it is, the underbelly of Hong Kong, and among the most crowded and polluted place on earth. So let’s not romanticise it too much, especially using it as a falsely idealised place to demonise mainlanders.

In a recent interview, renowned maverick publisher and long-term Mong Kok resident Jimmy Pang Chi-ming claimed his district was stolen by mainlanders.

“Mong Kok has degenerated,” he said. “This place is getting too crowded, too noisy and too dirty – it’s no longer a dwelling place.

“Mainlandisation” is the culprit behind the degeneration of this lively and energetic district, he claims.

Come again? It’s hard to see how the district could be more degenerate – with its prostitutes, pimps, triads, gamblers, drug smugglers/abusers and johns – than it already is.

Apparently the degeneration Pang referred to is the displacement of traditional shops and restaurants by drugstores, and cosmetics and jewellery chains catering to mainland visitors.

Well, for some people, having more modern shops may be seen as a sign of progress.

But even if you are not one of them, the displacement started not with mainlanders, but before the 1997 handover with the massive redevelopment project by the developer Great Eagle that would become the Langham Place mall and hotel, now renamed Cordis.

For sure it’s one of those generic, characterless malls favoured by landlords in Hong Kong. But that’s hardly the fault of mainlanders.

But don’t worry, Mr Pang. Just walk across the street. The street hookers and pimps are still there.