Hong Kong / Impermanent Public Space

After recognizing that there is not much urban open space is suitable for public gathering and protest activities in Hong Kong, is there a way of introducing temporary public space to the city to feed the demand before new parks/piazzas are finished?

Take Umbrella Movement as an example, although the number of participants fluctuated throughout the movement, it has been reported that 18% of Hong Kong citizens had been to the occupied areas and taken part in the movement (reference 1). If we look at the statistics from Umbrella Movement General Census, more than 1500 tents were staying in Admiralty for more than one month (reference 2).

 

Photo of the occupied area in Admiralty on September 29th 2014 © 2014, BBC NEWS
Photo of the occupied area in Admiralty on September 29th 2014 © 2014, BBC NEWS

 

After this historical event, the main problem for public space, to me, is that how can we organize a space to feed different public activity especially in terms of number of participants and length of time? I believe after Umbrella Movement, the next large scale democracy movement will also last more than just a weekend. Is it possible for the Government to arrange urban spaces for impermanent use by public request? For example, when Tamar Park is out of capacity, could it be possible to extend the public space from the park onto streets like areas on Harcourt Road and Tim Mei Avenue? Of course, the strategy concerns a lot on public transportation and it would be best if Government can provide alternatives for the rest of the public when designing such spaces. It would be similar to the approach which is used on July 1st (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day) and October 1st (National Day) when the parades take place, to have some part to streets blocked for the protesters.

What I meant is that when the organizations and committees of campaigns apply for the extension of public space, it is not wise for the Government to first predict how many people will participate and then assign certain areas for them. As the mode of participating democracy movements have changed in Hong Kong. More and more people come out onto streets promptly, instantly and unpredictably because of the fast-spread of internet messages.

Therefore, this kind of extension of public space, in my opinion, should not be limited in terms of its form and size. Taking scale to account, the space should be able to extend further and be more flexible enough to fit the skyrocketing number of participants. It could be a continuous mass and at the same time, seeing Umbrella Movement as reference, it could be separated at different districts as long as it is easily accessible.

 

References:

1) 明報新聞網新聞特輯. (2014) 港大民研:18%受訪者曾佔領. [Online] Available from: http://specials.mingpao.com/cfm/News.cfm?SpecialsID=137&Page=1&News=cab914df23750540c8fe411732d47722acdc4d613276542c808c1979aa76640dcac2. [Accessed: 18th December 2014].

2) Umbrella Movement Tents Population Census. [Online] Available from: http://goo.gl/H00PLo. [Accessed: 18th December 2014].

3) BBC News. (2014) HK protests: Inside Xi Jinping’s head. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29400349. [Accessed: 18th December 2014].

3 Comments on “Hong Kong / Impermanent Public Space

  1. It is a very interesting piece of argument and it brings out a lot of questions about the space Hong Kong government provided for public activities. Nevertheless the problem is more about political purposes instead of urban planning, the argument gives us a new perspective to see the revolution and planning of public space.

  2. I think what ‘Umbrella Revolution’ tells not only is their voice for democracy, but theie occupation of roads is actually a revolution against the lack of ‘Real Public Space’ in Hong Kong. Although the government has dedicated certain amount of land as public space, but the public space are not serving the real necessity of people. In park grassland are not permitted to step on and bridges are not allowed to stay.
    With the fast development of infrastructure and roads, cars become more dominated than pedestrian. Pedestrian walkway are getting narrower while roads are getting wider to solve the traffic jam problem. But that’s on the other hand cause the congestion problem on the pedestrian street. The city get more crowded and people are getting hard to breathe.
    The Umbrella Movement therefore is actually having a revenge against this kind of phenomenon. By occupying important roads, they want to tell the government that pedestrian also deserve the right to choose their public space. And it has proved that the most efficient public space do not need good decoration or facilities, but with a large open space at the city center they can shape the public space by themselves. I believe The government should give more freedom to the people when designing the new public space in the future.

    • Space is so valuable and expensive in Hong Kong that it is difficult to find free urban space anywhere outside the edges and periphery of the city. Density and congestion are difficult problems. Too what extent should the efficiency and effectiveness of infrastructure be reduced to accommodate increased pedestrian freedom? How much profit should be sacrificed? My feeling is that efficiency and profit are much less important than freedom.

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