Date
23 March 2017
Hong Kong's country parks are facing a threat as authorities seek to rezone some areas to allow for increased residential construction. Image credit: Canon
Hong Kong's country parks are facing a threat as authorities seek to rezone some areas to allow for increased residential construction. Image credit: Canon

How ‘everyday urbanism’ can help reinvent our city

As the saying goes, when dictatorship arises, revolution becomes everyone’s responsibility. With civil liberties in Hong Kong coming under increasing threat, many people are getting disenchanted with the status quo, helping fuel the idea of a “revolution”.

However, in my opinion, it doesn’t necessarily take a revolution to redress social injustice or inequalities in our society, as revolution always comes with a high price. Before we contemplate any drastic moves, perhaps we can try changing the status quo through the “self-determination” route.

Hong Kong people need to achieve self-determination as they are getting deprived of choices gradually in everyday life and have been subject to increased exploitation in recent years. Politically, we can’t choose our own chief executive by one person one vote, and some are even deprived of their right to stand for elections because of their political convictions.

As far as town planning is concerned, we have lost Lee Tung Street, Choi Yuen village, the northeastern New Territories and the northern Lantau Island one after the other, and we are on the brink of losing our rural country parks as well. Our way of life is under serious threat.

So how can we turn the tables and take our lives back? Perhaps the idea of “everyday urbanism” as outlined by Professor Kelbaugh Douglas of the University of Michigan can provide us some insight into how we can narrow the inequalities in our urban development.

Everyday urbanism refers to a bottom-up movement by the grass-roots to facilitate the sharing of public facilities on community levels and enhance public access to public spaces such as the roadways and parking lots for recreational use.

By rewriting the norms governing the use of public spaces, the move is aimed at empowering the public and giving them more say in the way their cities are designed.

Above all, everyday urbanism can help raise the awareness among the public about their equal right to enjoy the urban facilities, thereby dispelling the myth that the average individual has no key role to play in the process of urbanization.

Ordinary citizens can be equally important stakeholders in urban development, and not just big developers and government officials.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 9.

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

A member of Shadow Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, a non-governmental organization.

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