Sham Shui Po District has a long history. It is probably Hong Kong's earliest industrial and commercial centre. With the relocation of industrial activities to the Mainland, factories in the district have been changed to commercial, exhibition and logistics purposes, bringing vitality to the early developed area.
According to research carried out on the Lei Cheung Uk Han Tomb which was unearthed in 1955, the time when people first began to settle in the Sham Shui Po District can be traced back to the age of the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220).
Comprised of four villages - Kau Wa Keng, Cheung Sha Wan, Sham Shui Po and Kowloon Tong, Sham Shui Po was under the governance of Xin'an County before 1898. At that time, its population was about 3,000 living from agriculture, fishing and marine transportation. The largest village was Sham Shui Po where the market was located. The name "Sham Shui Po" was derived from the deepwater pier then situated at the juncture of the current Pei Ho Street and Tung Chau Street ("Po" is a dialect word for pier).
After the Qing Government was defeated during the Opium War, Stonecutters Island located in the west of Sham Shui Po together with the Kowloon peninsula (south of Boundary Street) were ceded to Britain in 1860.
In 1898, the Qing Government agreed to lease the territory north of Boundary Street in Kowloon up to Shenzhen River to Britain for 99 years. Sham Shui Po gradually developed as part of the Kowloon urban area.
From 1900 to 1920, most of the Sham Shui Po residents made their living from farming and fishing. After 1920, with investments from overseas Chinese, modern industries and businesses including textiles, garments, metalwork and enamelware were set up along the coastal area up to Lai Chi Kok.
Second World War
The Pacific War began in December 1941 and the Japanese army was able to occupy Hong Kong in less than 20 days after which the Sham Shui Po Camp became a concentration camp. For lack of food and a clean environment, beriberi and dysentery became prevalent in the camp and many inmates died from the lack of proper treatment.
The Post War Period
After the War ended in 1945, the population of Hong Kong began to increase. After 1949, many immigrants from the Mainland China entered Hong Kong. The number of Sham Shui Po residents dramatically increased, giving rise to serious squatter problem. At the end of 1953, a disastrous fire broke out in Shek Kip Mei, one of the largest squatter areas, destroying over 2,000 houses. The government constructed Shek Kip Mei Estate to accommodate the victims. In the 1960s, the industries in the district developed rapidly. All kinds of public housing estates and private buildings were built in succession. In the early 1980s, the population of Sham Shui Po reached nearly 500,000, and is currently the most densely populated area in Hong Kong.
Recent and Future Development
The population of Sham Shui Po is about 5.3% of the total Hong Kong population.
The West Kowloon Reclamation project provides about 165 hectares for the construction of private buildings and public housing estates. It is expected that the population of the district will increase. With various redevelopment projects currently being undertaken by the Urban Renewal Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society, Sham Shui Po will soon have a new look.
The West Kowloon Expressway, together with the Airport Railway connecting the Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok and the urban areas in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, passes through this reclaimed area. A large piece of land opposite Nam Cheong Street is being developed as a leisure park to serve as a buffer between the residential area and the West Kowloon Expressway. West Rail, with a length of 31 kilometres, connecting Yuen Long and Tuen Mun in the northwest of the New Territories to urban Kowloon, also passes through this reclamation. There are two stations in Sham Shui Po, namely Nam Cheong Station and Mei Foo Station.