Hong Kong / Shaping Public Space by Citizens

There are a lot of components help build a successful public space but which are the most influential factors? (Here, successful in terms of basic definition, the public would enjoy going to such kind of space.)

 

From Umbrella Movement, we can see a public space organized by the people not the Government. Take the occupied area in Admiralty as example. We can find a wide range of social activities within the area. Below are some referencing photos.

 

Mobile classrooms and study rooms were set up for students who joined class boycott © 2014, Mingpao
Mobile classrooms and study rooms were set up for students who joined class boycott © 2014, Mingpao

 

Various social actives took place; the linkage between individuals had never been that close © 2014, Mingpao
Various social actives took place; the linkage between individuals had never been that close © 2014, Mingpao

 

Protesters placed shelters and tents as temporary dwellings to stay overnight.
Protesters placed shelters and tents as temporary dwellings to stay overnight.

 

Banners were put up by protesters to voice out their wishes on democracy, which at the same time made the area a public plaza for social discussion.
Banners were put up by protesters to voice out their wishes on democracy, which at the same time made the area a public plaza for social discussion.

 

When walking around in Admiralty, one can find that a lot of citizens come with their cameras to take photos of different art installations and some of them even stop to listen to the speakers at Umbrella Plaza (a gathering point next to the exit of Admiralty MTR Station under the footbridge). These citizens might not have a stance on whether support the movement or not, but they somehow come to this area, this temporary public space, because of its attraction. Ironically, compared to other public space in Hong Kong, this illegal temporary public space had much more visits by the local.

 

This kind of bottom-up approach taken in Umbrella Movement on how to manage the public space is more efficient and should be taken into account by the people in power. Instead of having a top-down control on the public space, the other way round can leash the limits and potential of the public space. In fact, if public space belongs the public, why putting banners would be an illegal act? In my own experience, once I tried to sit on a short stone wall (about 1m high) in Tamar Park, and was immediately being asked not to do so by a security. In Hong Kong, public spaces are highly controlled by the government and sadly, we have not much freedom to choose the way we want to be in an open space.

 

A sign in Hong Kong Velodrome showing “No biking” while this space is designed to be used by bicycle riders and promote biking culture in Hong Kong.
A sign in Hong Kong Velodrome showing “No biking” while this space is designed to be used by bicycle riders and promote biking culture in Hong Kong.

 

A sign in Kowloon Park with a number of not-to-dos, limiting the user activities in a public park.
A sign in Kowloon Park with a number of not-to-dos, limiting the user activities in a public park.

 

References:

Apple Daily. (2014) 佔領之後公共空間誰屬?. [Online] Available from: http://green.appledaily.com/feature/20141111/10399718/%E4%BD%94%E9%A0%98%E4%B9%8B%E5%BE%8C-%E5%85%AC%E5%85%B1%E7%A9%BA%E9%96%93%E8%AA%B0%E5%B1%AC. [Accessed: 19th December 2014].

Hong Kong Public Space Initiative, Hong Kong In-media. (2014) 佔領運動對公共空間的啟示. [Online] Available from: http://www.inmediahk.net/node/1027559. [Accessed: 19th December 2014].

2 Comments on “Hong Kong / Shaping Public Space by Citizens

  1. It’s a pity to see the poor effort put in the incorporation of public space in Hong Kong. And it’s quite ironic that the actual built space actually contributed a lot to the occupying of streets. The roads for vehicles are actually closest to the MTR station and much more easily accessed by citizens on foot. The walkways on two sides where banners were hung and the two buildings perpendicular to them actually form a cubic theatrical-like space that allows people to divert their attention to the Umbrella plaza.

  2. It is undeniable that before the Umbrella Movement, little public awareness was given to the misused or wasted public space in Hong Kong. Seldom did we question the need of creating those large empty atriums and platforms which restrict people from using them freely, and how we citizens should use the public space before any new regulations were set up to control the freedom of using these spaces. Fortunately this issue was once reminded and public discussions were aroused after the movement. Hope that there will be more evaluations and new interpretation on the definition of public use, thus recreating and reactivating the public space in Hong Kong.

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