Hong Kong's second world war history

Hong Kong explorers offer rare look into underground air raid tunnels

The Hong Kong Urban Exploration group explores the 2.5 kilometres of second world war tunnels under Leighton Hill in Causeway Bay

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 10:19am

A group of urban exploration enthusiasts has offered a rare glimpse into a second world war air-raid tunnel in a video making the social media rounds.

The video produced by Hong Kong Urban Exploration (HK Urbex), which bills itself as a collective documenting “Hong Kong’s forsaken places”, shows a visit to tunnels built in 1940 under Leighton Hill in Causeway Bay as a pre-emptive defence against Japanese bombing.

It is not the first time the group’s members have explored the 2.5 kilometres of tunnels – the longest of 92 disused underground facilities in Hong Kong, according to a previous Post article.

Watch: Exploring tunnels under Leighton Hill

“[The tunnels] have always been high on our list, and this is one of a few that we’ve been in,” an HK Urbex co-founder told the Post, requesting anonymity because the group often enters historical sites illegally.

The group’s seven or so members frequently document their exploration of historical sites – old police bases, an abandoned slaughterhouse or a former film studio complex – to “immortalise” the locations.

In their latest expedition, four of the members quietly entered the Leighton Hill tunnels equipped with torches, gloves and face masks, spending over an hour underground.

“This kind of heritage, nobody knows about [it],” the HK Urbex co-founder said. “These tunnels are like a hidden heritage. They show the history of Hong Kong and the effects of the world war.”

Inside the pitch black tunnels, the members found an old Victorian-style toilet, end points filled with concrete and metal gates.

The tunnel’s cracks, ladders and even its ceiling condensation are echoes of a time when people took shelter in them before Hong Kong’s surrender to the Japanese on Christmas Day 1941.

At the time, people brought camp beds, mattresses and bedding to spend the night there, according to an account in a December 1941 Post article.

While HK Urbex admits its members do illegally enter buildings or sites, their videos have a disclaimer saying trespassing is against the law.

“We feel it’s a bit of a crime to keep these historical places private from the public,” the co-founder said. “We believe that photography is not a crime and documenting stuff is not really a crime ... Even if we trespass, we give [the site] proper respect.”

Better preservation was needed for such sites before they are redeveloped, he added.

“The government could do a lot better [in] preserving and keeping their heritage,” he said.