City of Darkness: Revisited


Grocery-store owner Chan Pak and his beloved cats in his tiny shop on Lung Chun Back Road

Born in China in 1916, Lam Tseng Yat arrived in Hong Kong 10 years later, with his father and four brothers. In 1947, they bought a small property at 25 Tai Chang Street and opened their first store.

“Our business has been registered with the Government for more than 20 years, and our shop has existed for more than 40. We registered because it meant we could make use of the facilities offered by the banks, but it’s not really necessary.

The demolition is a real problem. From the outset, we have demanded a shop for a shop, and living quarters for living quarters from the Government. The compensation is such a small amount of money; how can we survive outside? It isn’t even enough to set up another shop. We shall be jobless. If they won’t give us a place for a new shop, they should give us sufficient money to buy one – and that means nothing less than $1.5 million.

I have lived here all these years, with my wife. All my children were born here; they were married here. We lived on the first and fourth floors of this building, but when my children moved out we sold them and now I live in the shop. My fourth brother has 12 children and they lived in the City too.

We shall stay on even if there is no business left, and I will never accept the offer of $210,000. Of course, they can find ways to drive us out. They can pull everything down, but the demolition of the Walled City isn’t the same as getting rid of ordinary squatters. The whole world will know about it. I told the guy from the City Administration Office that if the compensation was not right, I would not move. We will not move, even if we are machine-gunned.”

Lam Tseng Yat lived in the City and ran his shop on Tai Chang Street for over 40 years.