SLUMS OF HONG KONG

by Special Agent Née Née

After 20 hours of movies, video games and sapporo on high-tech Japan Airlines, I finally arrived in Hong Kong, a city of western-style buildings with bamboo scaffolding. I took a bus into Kowloon peninsula, the mainland section of Hong Kong. I get off in the neighborhood of Tsim Sha Tsui.

I had no reservations and had no place in mind to stay. The only thing I knew was that the cheapest beds in town are at a place called the Chung King Mansions.

These aren't mansions in the southern antebellum sense- heavens no. They are a high rise tenement slum of hostels and boarding houses which house mostly south asian and african workers, filipino prostitutes and other 'gwailos' (cantonese for foreigner).

I've been told that the drug trade in Hong Kong is centralized in Tsim Sha Tsui with a lot of transactions in the Mansions. There is a heavy presence of the Triads, the chinese equivilant of the mafia. The Triads began centuries ago as a secret society but has evolved into the modern world of organized crime. A supposed 80% of the world's heroin supply comes out of Hong Kong making the Triads a powerful entity and awful enemies. I heard of a journalist who was living in the Mansions a few years back and was trying to write a story on the Triads. He was getting a bit too deep in what he found out which angered them so in order to teach him a lesson they cut off his right arm.

The first person I met in Hong Kong was a decrepit old junkie who had been living in Chung King mansions for over twenty years.

I saw a sign up that on the 16th floor some one named John always has secondhand books for sale. I was curious so I make my way through the stairwell and dank hallways to his room and I see a frail bone-thin man in boxers and an arm sling standing in the doorway barely able to hold himself up. It was John the Book. That's what they call him. He showed me into his room where he had stacks upon stacks of old paperbacks that he was selling. The room had a stale odor. He then began to talk about being in the hospital for something he didn't specify- had to do with the sling and saying that he hates the anesthesia masks they put on him. They remind him of going to the dentist as a kid in London. The needles don't bother him though. That's when I glance at his arm and see nickel-size scar tissue on his veins. I'm guessing he was in his late sixties but he looked much older- I think that's what Chung King will do to you when you live there for as long as he has. He had moved there in 1979, taking advantage of the available opiate supply (my own conclusion). He was sitting on his bed as he was talking to me and then slowly started to fall over and said his medication makes him drowsy. Not knowing what to do, I just helped him up again and layed him down and told him I'd come back for the books later.