View of Hongkong from Victoria Peak

Sea of ​​houses and housing shortage in Hong Kong

The first thing I saw of Hong Kong have been the countless islands. It is lush and green around the city. The Chinese Special Administrative Zone consists not only of the high-rise buildings but of more than 260 islands, mountains and large forest areas. Only about 25 percent of the land area is cultivated, as the mountains and steep slopes make developments impossible. Around seven million inhabitants live in an area of around 1100qkm. That is more than 6000 per square kilometer. Most of them live in the city of Hong Kong where I am surrounded by gray skyscrapers, which are seldomly architectural masterpieces. Hong Kong is one of the cities with the highest cost of living. This makes the residential development all the more precarious. Despite a government program to create new housing (public housing), several thousand people live as so-called cage people. The cages have a size of about two square meters. Several lockable cages are installed in one room. The rapid population growth in the 1950s was partly responsible for this development.

On my way to Victoria Peak I am surrounded by beautiful natural forests. Almost natural. The paths are cobbled, and every hundred yards is a sign on how to behave in the forest. The walk to the top of Victoria Mountain is a welcoming break away from the noise and heavy traffic in the city. A viewing platform guarantees the best view on the city’s skyline, as far as the smog allows this. With a historic cable car visitors can avoid a steep ascent to the viewpoint. Before I could enjoy the view, however, I had to walk through a multi-storey shopping centre with countless restaurants. My recovery was quickly gone.

Until 1997, Hong Kong was a british colony. But even with the union, it retained special rights. As a special administrative area, Hong Kong enjoys largely autonomy with its own political and economic system. The last year have shown that this autonomy is fading. Beijing holds the authority in military matters and in diplomacy. With the integration, Hong Kong has triggered a catalyst effect for the entire region. The adjacent areas experienced an unprecedented economic upturn. The negative effects also included the fact that Hong Kong and the region became known for drug and human trafficking. Part of Chinas collective memory is the defeat of the imperial empire of China against the British Empire in the first opium war (1839-42). In consequence, China lost Hong Kong to the United Kingdom. It had to open its markets and endure the opium trade – with serious repercussions on Chinese historiography.

Already after two days I took the express train to go to the Chinese mainland to climb in the wonderful environment of Yangshuo. Unfortunately, I only discovered too late, that there are some sport climbing areas in the mountains of Hong Kong as well.