Is Chungking Mansions a trap for Wong Kar-wai movie fans?

China’s younger generation, in the wake of the Chungking Mansions rape, wonder if fans of Wong Kar-wai's cult movie are staying at the iconic building at the price of their own safety

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 12:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 September, 2015, 5:53pm

Inspired by Wong Kar-wai’s award-winning film Chungking Express, a young journalist surnamed Han had booked herself a room at a hostel in Tsim Sha Tsui's Chungking Mansions out of what she later called “excessive curiosity”.

Han, who was visiting Hong Kong with two girlfriends from China's northern Tianjin last week, stayed only one night. She decided she had had enough “adventure” and moved out first thing on Saturday morning to a pricier hotel on Hong Kong Island.

The hostel they stayed in is run by an old Shanghainese couple, she said. It was clean and well-managed overall. But the three of them were alarmed after a man followed them into an elevator as they returned to their room on Friday evening. The man didn't press any buttons and followed them off the elevator at their floor. After he walked off in a different direction, the girls called the hotel staff.

"We were scared he would come back again and feared that the lock on the door was not secure enough if anything happened," Han said.  

Little did Han and her friends know that a fellow backpacker from Beijing, who would check in hours later, would have a more tragic story about her stay at Chungking.

Han later found out from the news that the 21-year-old university student, who was also on holiday, was reportedly raped by a 26-year-old transport worker on Saturday night. After taking a shower, she was in her room but had not locked her door when the suspect forced his way in, said media reports.

“I am still terrified,” Han later wrote on her Weibo microblog reflecting on the news. “The rape happened on the same day I checked out!”

Han was among thousands of China’s younger generation wondering, in the wake of the Chungking Mansions rape, whether fans of Wong's cult movie are staying at the iconic building at the price of their own safety.

“Even though the building is a landmark and world famous, and is no longer as scary as portrayed in Chungking Express,” Han said, “we women should still prioritise safety when travelling and do research about the hotel.”

“Wong Kar-wai should be tried,” wrote influential micro-blogger Hecaitou half-jokingly. “He filmed the ... [building] like a piece of art. Isn't it a trap set up for China’s young artsy women?”

“The stupid young artsy women were all ‘poisoned’ by Wong Kar-wai,” many others wrote, urging backpackers to do their research when booking lodging.

The 17-story building on Nathan Road, famous for being home to Hong Kong’s immigrants, refugees and curry houses, has become a attraction itself and was voted by Time magazine as the "Best Example of Globalisation in Action" in 2007. It is also the setting of Chungking Express, which tells the story of two love-struck cops played by Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Many tourists on a tight budget say they are drawn to the mansion because of its bargain hostels and guesthouses.

Wen Sijie, a Sichuan native who stayed at Chungking for several nights in early 2012, said she had booked a room there because many affordable hotels were sold out during the Lunar New Year, a peak time for the city's tourism.

Wen paid HK$500 for a room there, but she said she could have easily paid thousands of dollars if she had stayed at a three- or four-star hotel.

On China’s largest e-commerce platform Taobao, a Chungking hostel named Pay-Less Guest House advertises its rooms at 198 yuan (HK$250) per night.

Judging by the reviews left by its clients on the website, most people liked the place.

“The location was great,” wrote a former guest. “And the people in the building were actually nice - no need to be alarmed of their skin colour. I would stay here again the next time. ”