Andy: You were safe, but you could also be dead before you knew it

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m starting to type of bits of the transcript with Andy. (梵谷), whom we interviewed on June 15th. Andy was born and lived in the 城寨 until the age of 6.

[36:43]

Kae: So it means, my understanding is a bit wrong. I thought these people stay all day long here. But people go out do something…

Andy: My parents, they actually work outside. In the morning they just go out to do their job, and in the evening, dinner. Not much about entertainment. Normal family life.

[38:00 How Andy’s family left Kowloon Walled City]

Andy: And… another example I tell you how my family leave this place. At that time we were applying to live in public housing. How to apply? In those days, you applied to 寮仔部 – we didn’t have the Housing Authority back then…

David: 寮仔部 was in charge of demolishing-

Andy: Yes. Demolishing.  And so when we applied, we said: We live in wooden houses. These are self-constructed wooden houses, not proper ones. And 寮仔部 came over to check. Because these places were illegal – of course they were illegal! All these [shanty town] houses were built without government permission. Our landlord was from Chiu-Chou. In those days many of the people living there were from Chiu-Chou. The most influential group then was from Chiu Cho. We called them “Hok-lo” So our Chiu-Chou landlord said: “You dared to call the government to check on me.” And he said very loud voice “As soon as…” and he took out a knife and stood – because back then to enter you had to pass through certain routes and he said, “Any men [from your family] I see I will chop them.” And so the women were terrified.  They went to the entrance of the village (the so called entrance) where the men came home – where the dads came home – because we were four families living there — to stop them when they came home – and overnight found another place and moved out the next day. And that’s how we left the place.

And so people inside could at anytime… you know what  I mean? I said before it was safe but these things can be very not safe! And this kind of danger is, you could die in a blink of an eye. It was like that. That was that state things were in.

Grad: And you left just like that.

Andy: Yes, the next day we were out of there. Moved to To Kwa Wan, near On & On is.

39:00

[Kae asked about symbols and any childhood memories of Andy]

Andy: The green window frame [that indicated a brothel] – I found that out much later when I did some research on the Walled City. As children we never really touched these kinds of things or were aware of them. Many the adults knew but if they didn’t come into contact with those, then they wouldn’t tell you either. I can only say – for example, I lived here, and there were drug addicts on the stairwell. If I needed to go downstairs… I could see them, and I would kick them and they would shrink back. That was their reaction — they wouldn’t get mad because that was how things were. That was the way of things. There was a sort of order to things. You come to my place and get in my way, of course I’m going to kick you. Because they were in my way, it was reasonable to kick them. It like there was a sort of understanding (默契).

In there, I think, there were many kinds of these understanding. No one would tell you – you wouldn’t do anything too extreme – because if you cross a line by mistake, you could die before you knew it. Everyone was careful of each other. So inside slowly… yeah.

41:00

And secondly, with the 黃賭毒 they had their own rules and people to enforce them. If we didn’t touch these things, we wouldn’t be affected by them. Unless you wanted to establish your influence there. But for the normal people who knew about this place but were just living there, you wouldn’t be involved with the power struggles there because you weren’t planning to be there for the long term. And for some people, maybe it was because they couldn’t leave, that’s why they ended up setting up some kind of power base there. For example, if they started – without too much intention – dabbling in 黃賭毒 and managed to make some money. But honestly, you made some money, you [then had the means to] move away and make money elsewhere legally. Because the kingdom of crime was here, once you left you could be a normal person again. Conversely, if you were a criminal and you went in there to hide, you wouldn’t mess around too much because people could chase you out. If they threw you out and then made a phone call “he’s come out on the street” and you would be done for. So if you didn’t touch those things basically you were pretty safe.