Macau/Recent Planning Leading to Hengqin Project

Before Macau was handed back to China in 1999, it had been colonized by Portuguese government more than 100 years. Although the idea of Hengqin project was came up with in 21st century, there are evidences to prove that Macau needs and has been preparing for develop projects like Hengqin for a long time, and actually similar blueprints had already been created by the local and Portuguese governors when Macau was not yet a special administrative region.

There was a general plan from around 1920 for future reclamation of Macau [1](Fig.1). The most ambitious project in this early plan is the artificial island between Peninsula and Taipa. This unrealized island, as large as one thirds of Macau, could suggest that around a hundred years ago Macau has already not satisfied with reclamation districts along the coastline. People living in Macau have experienced or predicted extremely crowded life and started to consider exploring a large new land in the 20th century, instead of fragmentary reclamation land, for further development.

Fig.1 General plan in around 1920 for future reclamation of Macau

Though this artificial island was not carried out finally, Macau has found an opportunity to continue its urban planning in another undeveloped place: Hengqin New Area, an island in mainland China, 3 times as large as Macau and only 200 meters from it[2]. It is similar enough to the original artificial island plan, except Hengqin is a natural island. For a long time Macau have occupied D. João and Montanha, which later were joined together and became Hengqin island by land reclamation, and the Chinese took control of it after WW2[3]. Before that time Hengqin was barely inhabited, on which only stood some military and religious outposts from the Portuguese to indicate their control[4]. However, it is reported that MSAR’s first chief executive, Edmund Ho, has tried to buy Hengqin[5]. It may not be known that why Macau had left Hengqin uninhabited, but it is clear that after Macau’s development in all these years, it was hungry for a land not urbanized to extend itself.

From the last century Macau’s government was considering using railway systems and bridges to connect PRD (the Pearl River Delta, including Zhuhai), thinking it might extend the affecting area of Macau[6](Fig.2). This indicates that governors wanted to have a closer connection with mainland, even not in terms of land use but transportation, and Hengqin has provided Macau a project to realize both.

Fig.2 Railway plan around Macau in 1920s

Even though reclamation in macau has been growing from the last century (Fig.3), it is barely enough to meet present requirement of land in Macau. The reclamation land is provided for multiple uses such as public housings, education and also transport system like light railway and bridges[7]. But in recent years the university of macau has moved part of itself to Hengqin, and Macau needs to build an artificial island to meet the requirement of HKZM bridge. It has to start finding a new solution for further city development.

Fig.3 Chart of growing reclamation land area

Historical Document

Fig.1 General plan in around 1920 for future reclamation of Macau
Lu, Zeqiang呂澤強. “Urban Plannning of Macau a hundred years ago 澳門百年前的城市规划.” Macauzine. July 10, 2017.

Fig.2 Railway plan around Macau in 1920s
Lu, Zeqiang呂澤強. “Urban Plannning of Macau a hundred years ago 澳門百年前的城市规划.” Macauzine. July 10, 2017.


[1]Lu Zeqiang呂澤強, “澳門百年前的城市规划,” Macauzine, July 10, 2017.

[2]Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, “Welcome to Hengqin New Area,” Accessed December 16, 2018.

[3]Paulo Barbosa, “Macau Should Lead Hengqin’s Development,” MacauDailyTimes, March 16, 2015.

[4]Barbosa, “Hengqin’s Development.”

[5]Barbosa, “Hengqin’s Development.”

[6]Lu, “澳門.”

[7]Cartography and Cadastre Bureau (DSCC, Government of MSAR), “Knowledge > Geography > Statistics,” Accessed November 19, 2018.

1 Comment on “Macau/Recent Planning Leading to Hengqin Project

  1. This is certainly a fascinating topic, and it is equally intriguing that you are suggesting that the shortage of land for Macau’s surplus of tourism economy meant that there is a fair amount of untapped potential. However, the historic map you have shown clearly shows that Hengqin does not exist within Macau’s territorial imagination, simply because it was land that did not belong to Macau. Can you identify literature that suggests that this form of extraterritorial thinking is not new? BTW, can you increase the image resolution or size so the table and finer texts are legible? Good work!

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