Land and property development in Hong Kong

Prof. Wing Shing Tang

Hong Kong Baptist University



In the literature on southern theories, it is common to have ignored land development as an essential element of understanding. This project attempts to contribute to the project by understanding landed and property development in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong studies can make a modest contribution to the advancement of nuanced southern theories. This can be attributable to its distinguishable development history. The history of Hong Kong has rendered many southern theories irrelevant, as the tradition and, its polar opposite, the modern have be mutually embedded since it was colonised by the British in 1841.  Land in the New Territories has been mutually embedded with its counterparts elsewhere in the colony  since 1891, when this large tract of land was lent to the British by the Chinese. As a result, the traditional Chinese customary land occupancy system has persisted, and again thanks to the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, until today. Simultaneously, Hong Kong as an independent city has ended with the return of sovereignty to China in 1997, becoming part of the Chinese spatial administrative hierarchy with the birth of the ‘one country, two system’. These complexities have rendered any account of Hong Kong by southern theories irrelevant.


As a preliminary attempt to construct a more nuanced southern theory, this case study focuses on the land development of a district that exhibits the mutual embeddedness of the modern and the tradition. Ngau Chi Wan, a rural village of more than 200 years old, is located next to Choi Hung, the first public housing estate built in the early 1960s, in Kowloon Peninsular. It is such complexity of mutual embeddedness between town and country that calls for a careful scrutiny. To begin with, an archival search of the development of this village over time is to be achieved. It starts with comprehending the land development system and the way the village has developed. A survey will be carried out to document the population composition, and their land and house ownership patterns. The technique of walking around the village is employed to enumerate an inventory of concrete spatial elements such as building, ancestor halls, other ceremonial and festival structures, and infrastructures. This will be supported by, if possible, a few aero-photos to map the historical geography of the village. Villagers will be interviewed to cover their everyday spatial practices and their imagination about the village. In totality, the information collected would allow us to identify the town-country relation within the land development system and its changes over time. Some generalised statements can be made by situating the case study materials in the general discussion of Hong Kong as a whole.


All the information collected will be collated in a such a way to make a modest contribution to debating southern theories.