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 Foreign Policy, 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.