I like Hong Kong a lot, although admittedly only during a few months of the year (i.e. winter, when the weather is 12° and raining). One of the things that surprised me about the place, however, was how… not like the version of itself I’d seen in movies and TV it was. I guess I was expecting some kind of Pacific Rim Bone Slum-esque cyberpunk dystopia, and instead I found myself in… basically Sydney? But with better shops? And a surprising amount of undeveloped land.

Turns out, that stereotype of Hong Kong the West likes to trot out for its “exotic” near-future settings? Isn’t based on Hong Kong so much as it is the now-dismantled Kowloon Walled City. The Walled City was technically a city-within-a-city; a lawless block of land that didn’t quite belong to the then-British-administered Hong Kong and didn’t quite belong to mainland China. Most notoriously, the Walled City is the place building codes forgot; a not-quite 3-hectare mass of around three hundred high-rises and something like 50,000 residents.

The Walled City was torn down in the early 90s–there’s currently a park on its former site–but its legacy isn’t forgotten. It shows up in the (highly recommended) Shadowrun: Hong Kong, for example, where it becomes a major plot point. An it’ll continue to inspire the aesthetic of urban dystopias, whether people (Westerners in particular) realize it or not.

And maybe the ghost of the Walled City still haunts Hong Kong in its own way. Wherever there is high density housing, the City of Darkness lives on…