National Geographic : 1962 Jan
Hong Kong Has Many Faces I let him have a week-forever by Hong Kong standards-and he fitted me with a beautifully hand-tailored suit of British fab ric for a third of what it would have cost in the United States. The luxury shops and busy tailors of Na than Road depend largely on visitors. Hong Kong's rising middle class flocks to such em poriums as the glittering new Daimaru de partment store on the Victoria side (page 33). Only a couple of blocks away, and ob viously competing with Daimaru, stands China Products, Ltd. Here, in Red China's busiest Hong Kong showcase, I chatted with a tall, lovely girl from Formosa. "These are good buys," she admitted frank ly, nodding toward a whole department of traditional Chinese arts: jade, painted scrolls, carved stone, and ivory. "But I wouldn't pur chase the clothing." The average Hong Kong white-collar worker, however, welcomes China Products' cotton prints from Shanghai mills, which cost as little as 15 cents a yard. Also the rough but serviceable shoes for $3 a pair. Hong Kong's bargain counters are an old story. One day in the Victoria offices of the Commerce and Industry Department, I tried to talk with one of the colony's trade officers about a newer marvel: the city's dramatic emergence in the past decade as an indus trial leader of Southeast Asia. But the city itself insisted on doing the talking. Outside Half a world away from Great Britain lies Hong Kong, a dot on the broad face of China. Once the trans-Eurasia train or the steam ship through Suez took weeks, even months, from London. Today practically no Westerners arrive by way of the Kowloon-Canton railway, and only leisurely travel ers come by boat. Most arrive by jet, landing at Kai Tak Airport on land reclaimed from water. To men long at sea, Hong Kong's bright lights and busy shops beck on irresistibly. Every year thou sands of U. S. sailors pour ashore in this most popular liberty port in the Far East. These seamen, from visiting warships of the Seventh Fleet, shop along bargain-rich Queen's Road in Victoria. the window twin pile drivers slammed out shifting patterns of sound as another of the city's Victorian structures disappeared and a new office building took its place. We fled to a hilltop beyond Kai Tak Air port to see the kind of thing that scarcely seems to raise a Hong Kong eyebrow any more. Below us, where seven years before a range of hills had stood, now spread a vast amphi theater in which housing for 60,000 people had risen. The spoil from the hills, dumped into the sea, created more acres of land. Here nearly 100 factories were busily gushing tex tiles and paint and spectacle frames and felt hats and dozens of other commodities. "Come back in five years," my friend invit ed, "and you will find a self-supporting com munity with a quarter of a million people." Flood of Refugees Spurs the Economy Kwun Tong township represents one small chapter in the almost unbelievable story of Hong Kong's rise as an industrial city. I asked how it had happened. "In two words," the officer told me, "'economic necessity.'" For decades, he explained, Hong Kong was the front door for the great China market. Sitting astride the world's trade lanes, the city endlessly shuttled goods in and out of its busy warehouses, bound from China to the world, and from the world to China. Then came the Korean War. The United Nations voted an embargo on trade with China, and SUPER ANSCOCHROMEBY W. E . GARRETT, NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC STAFF © N.G .S .