Chungking Mansions sits nestled in downtown Hong Kong, framed by stately hotels, LED-bedazzled storefronts, and an iconic skyline. But it is not the Hong Kong of native Chinese residents -- as the Economist reports, many regard the place with a "kind of horror, as a heart of darkness that just happens to be located in the heart of their city." The shopping mall structure has morphed into a collection of apartments, cheap guesthouses, restaurants, and shops, inhabited by 5,000 residents.
Illegal transactions abound; there are drugs, sex, and black market goods for sale. But as Gordon Mathews, an anthropologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, writes in , Chungking Mansions is also "a central node in low-end globalization," a hub in the underground economy that supplies goods to much of the developing world. As much as 20 percent of the mobile phones used in sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, have passed through the building.
Above, the main entrance to Chungking Mansions, located on Hong Kong's bustling Nathan Road.