"Ring up for an appointment" : Empirical & oral evidence of commercial & other freedoms in the heyday of the City

Lawrence Wai Chung LAI*, Stephen Nicholas Guy DAVIES, Prudence Leung Kwok LAU, Nixon Tit Hei LEUNG, Vincent Nok Hang CHAN, Mark Hansley Yang CHUA

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Informed by economic concepts of product competition, this paper uses publicly available and accurate business information on establishment names and addresses obtained from the Yellow Pages of the contemporary Hong Kong telephone book and census socio-economic data backed by oral testimonies, to dispel the myth that the “Kowloon Walled City” was an incarcerated ghetto. The use of this imagery in the title for this City as a built up, politically sensitive zone levelled to the ground to make way for a public Chinese garden shortly before Hong Kong was returned to China, is treated as a form of ‘product differentiation’ in the academic research marketplace. As a contribution to planning theory, the paper uses the City as a show case of how academic branding, through descriptors, creates images of places and offers a countervailing image. Technically, it demonstrates the immense archival value of telephone directories and business chronicles apart from census data as sources of socially significant data for urban studies and informed re-interpretation of subjective imageries of an urban place.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104232
Number of pages15
Early online date14 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are thankful to Dr. Conrad Kui Shing Lam for advice regarding the medical and educational aspects of the City; Dr. Justin Y.H. Chan for introducing Mr. L for interview; Dr. Sr. Ken S.T. Ching for the production of Fig. 1; Queenie Wing Sze for drawing Figs. 7 and 8; Dr. Adam C.L. Lin, Department of Architecture, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, for Fig. 9; and Bryan Ho Wai Lee, Catherine Sau Wan Hui, and Sarah Wun Yi Cheng for their assistance in searching for information on firms from archival photos and telephone directories.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Kowloon Walled City
  • Freedom of trade
  • Telephone directories
  • Academic product differentiation
  • Media titling


Dive into the research topics of '"Ring up for an appointment" : Empirical & oral evidence of commercial & other freedoms in the heyday of the City'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this