Besides the phenomenal economic success that Shenzhen has achieved over the last 30 years, the city also strives to pronounce itself as a city worth visiting. Walking along the underground corridors on the way to the subway, one can often see posters shouting out the top tourist destinations in Shenzhen. One of them is Chung Ying Street (or Zhong Ying Jie in Mandarin). It is portrayed by the state media as “a place of national pride.” While it remains questionable as to how much of a national pride Chung Ying Street is for the locals and the rest of the inhabitants in Shenzhen, the street undoubtedly marks an important presence amongst the urban memories of the city.
Chung Ying Street is located in a small border town called Sha Tau Kok (Sha Tou Jiao in Mandarin) in Yantian, one of Shenzhen’s eastern districts. Sha Tau Kok was split into two parts (British Hong Kong side and the Chinese Mainland side) as a result of a Convention between the United Kingdom and China, respecting the extension of Hong Kong territory signed in June 1898, as part of the series of unequal treaties after China’s defeat in the Opium Wars. Chung Ying Street lies exactly where the Hong Kong side and the Mainland side meet.
“Shenzhen is a glimmering city of skyscrapers and Chinese economic prosperity since the late 70s and early 80s.” A brochure about the city of Shenzhen would say something along the lines of that, and tourists are only shown the “presentable” parts of the city. Very rarely, however, would they be taken to the more grimy “urban villages” which lie behind the screen of urban spectacles. We’ll take you there today.