Macau/From Hengqin campus to Hengqin New Area: Tension of Identity between Macau&Hengqin

As Macau’s government and Beijing are both protagonists of Hengqin project, there would certainly be some tensions in terms of urban planning in undeveloped area and existing policies. And this kind of tension would not only affect how Hengqin grows in future but also have an impact on how people identify it.

It is known that the University of Macau (UM) has radically built a new campus in Hengqin New Area and moved the whole university across the border in 2013[1](Fig.1). And understanding Hengqin campus would become an attempt to explain how these tensions happen. Despite its location, UM Hengqin campus is controlled by Macau’s government[2]. The connection between Hengqin and Macau is so close that it seems like Hengqin would have been always part of MSAR: underwater tunnel between campus and Macau without immigration check, being exempt from the Great Firewall and individual fire and police stations sent by MSAR. “This piece of land is not legally an enlargement of Macau, but in practice, it is.” said Jorge A.F. Godinho, an associate professor at the University of Macau’s law faculty[3].

[6] Fig.1 UM Hengqin campus, much larger than its original campus in Macau.
Since Macau is paying for Hengqin campus, it is more like that Macau has rented certain piece of land from Beijing. Different from other rentings having happened in the history of China, Hengqin campus is handed to Macau in a much more gentle and rational way. But what remains is that whoever ‘rent’ a piece of land would cause irreversible changes on its city skyline[4]. UM has turned a nearly uninhabited fishing village of Hengqin into a high education institution with pretty campus in only 4 years(Fig.2), and made it get rid of the sign of Beijing’s or local control. The nature of this renting land is rare as if different laws and planing from different governments can be turned on and off in a certain frame[5].

[7] Fig.2 Photo of developed Hengqin Campus without any sign of the old village

There would be little difference between Hengqin campus and Hengqin New Area. Hengqin and Macau affect urbanism of each other. In the process of development they will grow as a whole city, and districts functioning differently could locate in either Hengqin or Macau, or be as a cross-boundary area. For example, many public housing could be in Hengqin and people go to Macau for work and vice versa. While they work as a city, part of it is located in Mainland and the other part is located in Macau. Should we call it city of Hengqin or city of Macau? And Is there any differences if we develop it as a mainland city, a special economic area or a special administrative region?


[1] “Home>Campus>Campus,” University of Macau, accessed December 26, 2018.

[2] Joyce Lau and Calvin Yang, “University of Macau Moves Over the China Border,” New York Times, July 14, 2018.

[3] Joyce Lau and Calvin Yang, “Moves Over.”

[4] Wu Xin and Liu Jing, “Alley Houses Under Colonial Urban Planning–The Case of Macau, Shanghai and Tsingtao,” Journal of Human Settlements in West China 2 (April 2014): 37.

[5] Joyce Lau and Calvin Yang, “Moves Over.”

[6] Fig.1 “Home>Campus>Campus,” University of Macau, accessed December 26, 2018.

[7] Fig.2 “Home>Campus>Campus,” University of Macau, accessed December 26, 2018.

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