From Bruce Lee’s mansion to Bauhaus-style Central Market, HK Urbex are documenting the fast-changing city’s fading heritage
“We just had to hop the fence. It was kind of easy,” says Ghost, co-founder of HK Urbex, as he explains how the urban explorer group gained access to the former mansion of late martial arts superstar Bruce Lee.
Wearing masks to protect their identities, the group circled the abandoned home in Hong Kong’s upscale Kowloon Tong neighbourhood three times to make sure the coast was clear. As one member stood out front to keep watch, another leapt over the back fence. Twenty minutes later they were out again – another successful urban mission accomplished.
This sounds familiar from reports of urban explorers operating in cities around the world, but the eight-strong Hong Kong group are quick to distance themselves from people who illegally access rooftops just to take selfies and post them on social media.
Once inside Bruce Lee’s former mansion, HK Urbex took photos and video of the interiors and exteriors to add to the list of more than 100 derelict and demolition-threatened sites they have documented since Ghost and Echo Delta formed the group in 2013.
“Hong Kong’s pretty much always at the whim of powerful real estate companies – they pretty much control Hong Kong,” says Echo Delta. “The government might, through the antiquities board, give recommendations to preserve certain sites but it’s kind of toothless. They just give a recommendation and there’s no actual power to stop it from being demolished.”
Although trespass is illegal, they have so far avoided any serious run-ins. “We try to be very careful,” says Ghost. “Sometimes we plan for a month in advance before we go.” The one time a group member did get caught at an abandoned psychiatric hospital, the security guard who confronted him was friendly. “He just escorted us off the property while talking about the place,” says Echo Delta.