Border Ecologies: Hong Kong's Mainland Frontier 9783035602845, 9783035606041, 9783035606010

Hong Kong’s border with Shenzhen is dissolving. By 2047, the border will likely not exist. Integration with the Mainland

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Border Ecologies: Hong Kong's Mainland Frontier
 9783035602845, 9783035606041, 9783035606010

Table of contents :
Border Ecologies
Shen Kong: Cui Bono?
The Frontier Closed Area
Tactical Framework
Enclaves and Codependency
Interstitial Infrastructure
Scarred Landscapes
Invisible Exchange
Village Alliances
Project Team
Image Credits

Citation preview

Joshua Bolchover Peter Hasdell




ZONE 2 Inbetweeners

ZONE 1 Enclaves and Codependency

ZONE 4 Scarred Landscapes

ZONE 3 Interstitial Infrastructure


ZONE 6 Kinship Economics and Village Alliances

ZONE 5 Invisible Exchanges




BORDER ECOLOGIES text by Joshua Bolchover


TACTICAL FRAMEWORK text by Peter Hasdell



TIMELINE text by Matthew Hung


ENCLAVES AND CODEPENDENCY text by Joshua Bolchover

SHEN KONG: CUI BONO? text by Mary Ann O’Donnell & Viola Yan Wan


INBETWEENERS text by Joshua Bolchover


THE FRONTIER CLOSED AREA photographs by Bas Princen





SCARRED LANDSCAPES text by Joshua Bolchover


MICRO-TACTICS text by Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell


INVISIBLE EXCHANGE text by Peter Hasdell


MICRO-BORDERS text by Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell


VILLAGE ALLIANCES text by Peter Hasdell


The Frontier Closed Area: a buffer zone created by the British between Hong Kong and the Mainland in 1951.


Hong Kong’s border with Shenzhen is incrementally dissolving. By 2047, fifty years after the 1997 hand­ over of Hong Kong, the border will no longer exist. This will mean the conjoining of the economic, political, and social systems that have so far been able to operate separately under the ‘one country, two systems’ policy. Hong Kong will become fully integrated into Mainland China. Or will it? The uncertainty surrounding what will happen has created huge anxiety for many Hong Kongers. Citizens are concerned about preserving cultural differences and values, language, freedom of speech, and their right to vote. Caught within this debate is the Frontier Closed Area, a buffer zone created by the British in 1951 to strengthen Hong Kong’s separation from the Mainland. For sixty years, this closed land has retained a landscape of ecosystems including tidal estuaries, fish farms, primary forests, historic villages, and abandoned military posts. In stark contrast, and in half the time, the village of Shenzhen, across the border, has exploded into an urban metropolis of 15 million plus, becoming the poster child for China’s economic reform era.


Rotating 180 degrees at the border reveals the stark contrast between Shenzhen's urban edge and Hong Kong's natural landscape.

In 2016, Hong Kong’s Frontier Closed Area (FCA) has almost been erased, and with it over two thousand hectares of land have been opened up for future, alternative, uses. The shrinking of the buffer zone and consequent release of land is not simply a question of planning. Originally intended as a political statement of Hong Kong’s physical separation from Mainland China, its current dissolution is the mirror image: a political move indicative of Hong Kong’s closer integration with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). An investigation into the characteristics of the border zone, including the intensity of trans­­actions and people flow that occur across it, and the processes underlying its natural habitat and its spatial occupation, elucidate an understanding of this border zone as a Border Ecology. This is defined as an interwoven set of relationships that emerge as a result of the differences between Hong Kong and Mainland China. This book explores the unique border ecology of this intermediary zone by describing specific narratives and their spatial effects that have evolved over time. By unpeeling the layers of this uncharted territory, we reveal a complex

set of relationships that operate between macropolicies and micro-conditions on the ground. This introductory article describes the broader political, historical, and environmental context of the FCA, defining how this context can be framed conceptually as a border ecology. It outlines a strategic approach to design, proposing insertions within this ecology offering an alternate form of development that is open-ended to adjust to the uncertainty facing Hong Kong in 2047 and beyond.

POLITICAL AWAKENING Since the 1997 handover, Hong Kong and the Mainland have forged a path of structured connectivity. Economic agreements, infrastructure, and easements of visa restrictions have all worked to strengthen the everyday dependence between the two sides. At the same time, the debate regarding Hong Kong’s future relationship with the Mainland is being contested, driven by what some term Hong Kong citizens’ ‘political awakening’. 1 This awakening reflects a process of defining Hong Kong’s post-handover identity.

If, for some, Hong Kong has been an intermediary and temporary location, ‘a borrowed place on borrowed time’, 2 others have begun to reflect on Hong Kong as a unique place with the capacity to make its own decisions on how it should be governed and how to craft its own future. 3 A sequence of events over the last five years have demarcated this emerging concern and the subsequent rise of localist politics. In 2012, students and activists staged a ten-day protest at government headquarters against a proposed compulsory national curriculum, which drew crowds of 27,000 (police estimate) to 100,000 (organisers’ estimate). The protest was significant as it represented a reaction to perceived meddling in Hong Kong’s educational system by Beijing in order to educate citizens on China’s national history, of which Hong Kong was a part. Deemed by many as a propaganda tool, the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, abandoned the plan amidst the controversy. The event contributed to the alliance of different protest groups, including pro-democracy and student organisations that united against the notion of Beijing’s interference.

In September 2014, citizens took to the streets in what became known as ‘the Umbrella Revolution’. The protest was initiated in response to Beijing’s proposal on how universal suffrage should be implemented for the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s chief executive. Beijing offered that the public could vote on a preselection of candidates made by its own nominating committee of 1,200 members. This assertion of control caused consternation, and Beijing was considered to be reneging on its agreement to enable open elections by 2017. Initiated by a student activist group, Scholarism, the protest commenced with a boycott of classes, and was followed by a rally at the Tamar Building, government headquarters. The police forcefully dislodged the students with pepper spray, which ignited public indignation at their heavy-handedness. On September 28, the

1 — Benny Tai, interview by Joshua Bolchover, Hong Kong University, November 23, 2015. 2 — Richard Hughes, Borrowed Place Borrowed Time: Hong Kong and Its Many Faces, London: André Deutsch, 1976. 3 — Benny Tai.


The incredible urban spectacle of Hong Kong's Occupy movement, as protesters blocked one of the city's main highways for 79 days.

civil disobedience group Occupy Central with Love and Peace joined the fray, and other pro-democratic organisations were galvanised. The first night of protests was met with a bullish response from police, who turned up in riot gear and released tear gas on the crowd in an effort to disperse them. The evocative images of students amidst exploding tear gas canisters inspired many to join, and the numbers occupying Hong Kong’s main artery, in and around government headquarters, swelled to more than 100,000. The umbrella as a means of self-defence became the movement’s standard. The protesters created an informal settlement of tents, triage stations, workshops to make barricades, and workstations where they could continue to study. The impromptu carpeting of one of Hong Kong’s busiest highways, converting it into a public space, became a sensational urban spectacle. Artists moved in, walls were papered with Post-it notes carrying messages for the chief executive, C.Y. Leung, and non-protesters rode their bikes and took their children scootering. At night, the

4 — Peter So, ‘Public Support for Occupy Movement Growing, Survey Shows’, South China Morning Post, October 22, 2014. 5 — Ibid. 6 — Jermain T.M. Lam, ‘Political Decay in Hong Kong after Occupy Central’, Asian Affairs 42 (2015), 99–121.

atmosphere became festival-like. Instead of attempting to clear the zone, the police backed down, monitoring the barricades and ensuring government headquarters would not be breached. Other protest sites in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok also formed, bringing critical sectors of the city to a complete standstill. The standoff continued for seventy-nine days. Although support for the protest at its inception was estimated at 38 % of the population, 4 by its end 83 % were against it. 5 The government had embarked on a lengthy but strategic waiting game. Their inaction enabled the protest to continue, and in doing so it led to prolonged inconvenience that eventually whittled away at the political message. For many, not being able to access parts of the city and being stuck in traffic became more dominant memories than a desire for political reform. The ramifications for Hong Kong’s political climate have been described by some commentators as a form of ‘decay’ 6 insofar as democratic legislators have taken a position of

7 — Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, The Practice of the ‘One Country Two Systems’ Policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (June 10, 2014). 8 — Ilaria Maria Sala, ‘Ten Years: The Terrifying Vision of Hong Kong That Beijing Wants Obscured’, Guardian, March 11, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016,

9 — ‘This constitutes a serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong and undermines the principle of “one country, two systems” which assures Hong Kong residents of the protection of the Hong Kong legal system.’ British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, quoted in the Guardian. Stuart Leavenworth and agencies, ‘Britain Accuses China of Serious Breach of Treaty over “Removed” Hong Kong Booksellers’, Guardian, February 12, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016,


non-cooperation within the council, making policies difficult to implement. The antipathy towards the current chief executive and the inability to form a successful model for decision making reflects badly on Hong Kong’s ability to govern its own affairs. On the other hand, leaders such as Benny Tai are hopeful that a new generation of ‘umbrella soldiers’ will take up the mantle and become politicians, as evidenced by their successes in district council elections in 2015. The increasing frustration over what Beijing construes as a misinterpretation of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy led them to produce a policy white paper that clearly articulates their stance: ‘The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership.’ 7

Border Ecologies

Underpinning the political debate is the uncertainty about how involved Beijing will be in Hong Kong’s affairs. In the aftermath of the umbrella protest, certain events, some minor and others with huge implications, have stoked conflicting opinions regarding the degree of China’s infiltration of, and imposition on, Hong Kong’s everyday life. For example, the movie 10 Years – a dystopian vision of Hong Kong being completely subsumed into China, both culturally and politically – was rumoured to have had its cinema run curtailed despite its popularity, after it faced much criticism from Chinese authorities. 8 In 2015, the fifty-nine remaining postboxes with a royal insignia were covered with metal plates, thereby erasing any signs of Hong Kong’s colonial history. Then there is the mystery surrounding the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers who work for a publishing house responsible for titles that portray Chinese officials in a negative light. In particular, the apparent ‘abduction’ of Ling Bo brought condemnation from the British government as ‘a serious breach of the SinoBritish joint declaration on Hong Kong’. 9

10 — According to government statistics, 233,862,717 people were cross-border passengers. See ‘Appendix 7 – Statistics on Passenger Traffic by Control Point’, Hong Kong Immigration Department, accessed June 10, 2016, 11 — ‘Miscellaneous Data: Water Resources’, Hong Kong Water Supplies Department, accessed June 10, 2016,

Whatever the exact motivation behind each of these cases, or the PRC’s role in pressurising groups or acting with or without due respect for legal protocols, the paranoia that the PRC is inserting itself into Hong Kong’s matters has intensified. Despite the escalating climate of mistrust, in terms of investment, trade, and essential infrastructure, the Mainland and Hong Kong have become increasingly dependent. Each urban system has become reliant on the other for specific forms of exchange that include drinking water, food, capital, waste disposal, material, and knowledge. In 2014, over 230 million people made border crossings by rail or road through immigration checkpoints.  10 In 2013, the Mainland supplied Hong Kong with 64.5 %  11 of its drinking water, 90 % of vegetables, 100 % of live cattle, 100 % of freshwater fish, and 25 % of its energy from the Daya Bay nuclear plant.  12 Hong Kong accounted for nearly half of the Mainland’s received overseas direct investment, whilst the Mainland is Hong Kong’s biggest contributor to its overseas direct investment. As trade partners, they undertook HK$3.89 trillion, or approximately US$500 billion, in 2013 alone. In this regard, the sheer volume of exchange and interconnection demonstrates that, in practice at least, the Hong Kong–Shenzhen metropolis already exists.

FROM BORDER TO BOUNDARY This condition of dependency reflects the historical transformation of the border into its current designation as a boundary. Historically, the border has been in flux since the British seized Hong Kong Island in 1842, following the Treaty of Nanjing after the first Opium War. In 1860, the border was extended into Kowloon following the Convention of Peking in the aftermath of the Second Opium War, and was

12 — Information Office, Practice of ‘One Country Two Systems’.

‹ 1840









Hong Kong's border has changed over time.

defined by an artificial cleft, a straight line that cut across the peninsula as Boundary Street. In 1898, the British negotiated a ninety-nine-year, rent-free lease of the New Territories, taking advantage of China’s weakened position after the First Sino-Japanese War, and the border was established along the natural boundary of the Sham Chun River. At this point, the border was porous, allowing fluid exchange between the two countries. Given that Bao’an County was predominantly agricultural and sparsely populated (268,310 people in 1949), 13 there was no pressing need to control the frontier. The situation was radically altered by the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1939, which began a period of militarisation that continued past the end of World War II. The Communist Revolution of 1949, followed by the fledgling state becoming embroiled in the Korean War, cemented Cold War divisions between East and West, between Communism and Capitalism, and as a result the border crossings were shut down. By 1951, layers of fences had been constructed, armed personnel were stationed on both sides, and the British established a second line of defence in the form of the Frontier Closed Area (FCA), essentially a no-man’s land, stretching and thickening the border along its length. This

13 — L. Jiang, ‘Population and Sustainable Development in China: Population and Household Scenarios for Two Regions’ (PhD dissertation, University of Amsterdam, 1999), 60.

period of heightened control was maintained throughout the Mao era, albeit with intensive influxes of migration, particularly at moments of extreme hardship, such as during the Great Leap Forward. Deng Xiaoping’s opening-up policy of 1978 named Shenzhen as one of five Special Economic Zones (SEZ). The SEZs sought to become ‘Windows on the World’ 14 to allow China, closed to outside investment since 1949, to undertake limited and controlled exchange with the outside world and to generate competitive advantages through deregulated enclaves. Shenzhen provided the outlet for outsourced production and assembly industry, with access to land, labour, and financial incentives for industrial growth, whilst Hong Kong injected capital and business acumen, and provided a conduit for foreign investment. This is synonymous with the global trend of economic structuring towards decentralised production networks with key nodal cities providing control services from financial and legal sectors. 15 This development model linked Hong Kong with the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region in a system that thrived off an unending influx of migrant workers to factories in the Mainland and locational flexibility; businesses

14 — Windows on the World also refers to a theme park in Shenzhen, named after Deng Xiaoping’s proclamation.

15 — See Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.


Previous FCA boundary

Current FCA boundary

Development constraints

Sandy Ridge cemetery Fish-ponds

Site of specific Site of specific scientific interest


scientific interest




Site of specific scientific interest (egretry) Wetland conservation area Fish-ponds

Development potential

This shift effectively deindustrialised Hong Kong, with the majority of manufacturing industries moving to the incentivised conditions across the border. It also enabled Shenzhen to urbanise at an unprecedented rate, and in a short period the agricultural fields on the other side of Hong Kong’s border were replaced by a dense city fabric. Precipitated by the forthcoming expiry of the lease of the New Territories, Deng Xiaoping met the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in Beijing in 1982 to commence discussions on the future of Hong Kong. By 1984, a Joint Declaration was signed agreeing to return Hong Kong to China on the basis of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, which would preserve Hong Kong’s economic, social, and cultural freedoms for fifty years. The handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 did not result in the complete dissolution of the border, despite Hong Kong now being part of China. Rather, the border was renamed a boundary, and Hong Kong was defined as a Special Autonomous Region (SAR) – effectively part of China but maintaining its own legal, economic, and citizen independence from the motherland. Access to education, healthcare, predominantly visa-free travel, and uncensored media all distinguish Hong Kong citizens’ rights, as set out in Hong Kong’s Basic Law, from those of their Mainland counterparts. Although access to China for Hong Kong citizens is relatively straightforward via the ‘return-home permit’, non-Shenzhen-registered Chinese citizens wanting to come to Hong Kong have to apply for a visa.

regulations have to be readjusted to alter and rebalance the system. The system is in constant flux – a dynamic field of exchange – and therefore comparable to Eyal Weizman’s description of the frontier: ‘If sovereign borders are linear and fixed, frontiers are deep, fragmented and elastic.’ 17 He argues that if fixed borders preserve and protect citizenship, culture, and language through separation, frontiers act as a zone of transaction. In this way, the border has transformed from a space of political separation to one that maintains differences in order to facilitate exchange. This transactional space has been propelled by economic policies such as the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA, 2003) and largescale infrastructural projects such as Hong Kong–Shenzhen–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge (initiated 2009, estimated completion 2020), Guangzhou– Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link (estimated completion 2018), and a new border crossing at Liantang (2018). Each endeavours to further knit the border together and ease movement of goods and people from one side to the other. The bridge in particular is an ambitious project to cross the Pearl River Delta, linking Macao (another Special Administrative Region) and Guangdong Province, which includes the cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, with Hong Kong. By connecting these areas, each with its own special privileges and unique status 18 – Macao for gambling, Hong Kong for law and finance, and Shenzhen as an economic zone – a new regional-scaled metropolis will become conjoined, with an aggregated estimated population in 2011 of 120 million. 19

THE FRONTIER CLOSED AREA Examples of this selective porosity of the border also include limitations on financial investment, right of abode and permanent residency, and consumable goods. Policies control permeability and therefore act as control valves between the two sides. Sometimes, unforeseen by-products of these policies result in excessive flow, and so

16 — See Manuel Castells, The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban-Regional Process, Oxford, UK, and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1989.

The border has evolved from a relaxed territorial divide to a heightened militarised zone to its current state, which regulates and maintains the ‘one country, two systems’ policy. Throughout this transformation, however, since its creation in 1951, the Closed Area has remained frozen in time.

17 — Eyal Weizman, ‘Principles of Frontier Geography’, City of Collision: Jerusalem and the Principles of Conflict Urbanism, ed. Philipp Misselwitz and Tim Rieniets, Basel: Birkhäuser Architecture, 2006, 84–92.

18 — The concept that the extreme differences between these cities would drive the urbanisation process is described in ‘City of Exacerbated Difference’ Rem Koolhaas et al., ‘Great Leap Forward, Project on the City’, Cologne: Taschen, 2001.


moved to wherever was most conducive to effective and profit-making production. 16


migratory birds, and designated sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) that protect specific species of newts, bats, and freshwater fish. Despite its ecological value, the land pressures from both Hong Kong and Shenzhen now make this land extremely desirable for development.

The Hong Kong-ShenzhenZhuhai-Macao bridge under construction.

Border Ecologies

Spatially, this has resulted in two sides of extreme contrast. Whilst Shenzhen has built high-rise towers and dense fabric right up to its edge, Hong Kong’s Closed Area is an agricultural patchwork of fish farms and rice paddies that provides a living reminder of Shenzhen’s past landscape. This has become a real estate asset for developers on the Shenzhen side, who have built high-rise residential developments at the border’s edge to satisfy the demand for open natural views. This untouched green swath is a vital ecology separating the dense urban fabric of Shenzhen from Hong Kong’s New Territories – a peripheral zone of villages, industrial plots, piecemeal farming, and concentrated housing estates in the form of new towns. The Closed Area itself is almost twenty kilometres long, with a total area of approximately 2,800 hectares, running from Deep Bay in the west to Starling Inlet in the east. It is replete with a diverse landscape of mountains (33 %), agricultural land (28 %), wetlands (24 %), woodlands (3 %), and mangroves (2 %), as well as historic village settlements and burial grounds. Specific natural habitats have become established, including the protected wetland RAMSAR site at Mai Po that receives a winter influx of sixty thousand

19 — Jiangbo Bie, Martin de Jong, and Ben Derudder, ‘Greater Pearl River Delta: Historical Evolution Towards a Global City-Region’, Journal of Urban Technology 22 (2015), 103–23.

In 2010, the reduction of the Frontier Closed Area began. Working from east to west, the boundary line that defined this Cold War relic has been redrawn and shrunk in successive stages, releasing over two thousand hectares of land for possible development. How this land will be used is contested given the political climate that points towards a growing mistrust of the Mainland versus economic policy that is becoming increasingly integrated, whilst environmental campaigns are pushing for more conservation. The planning of the FCA therefore represents an opportunity to negotiate the complexity of these forces. As the interface between the two cities, how it is used and occupied represents a critical juncture in the acceptance or rejection of a conjoined Hong Kong–Shenzhen metropolis.

FUTURE PLANNING The HK 2030 vision plan, undertaken in 2007, is about to be revised to take account of the territorial planning of the SAR beyond 2030. The first iteration of the plan initiated a series of studies that recommended reorienting development towards the border region. They included planning for new town developments at Hung Shui Kiu for 160,000 people in the northwest of the territory adjacent to the Shenzhen Bay Bridge, and at Kwu Tung North and Fanling North for 176,900 people in the north-east, close to the border control point at Lo Wu. The planned opening of the Liantang border control point in 2018 and investment in proposed development corridors located close to the existing border control points at Lok Ma Chau and Man Kam To will further enhance opportunities at the border.


The conceptual design creates a new interface at the border to instigate mutually beneficial relationships between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Harnessing the unique characteristics and differences found at the border enables opportunities for exchange through a series of interlinked tactical interventions.


Other studies, including the New Territories North Development Plan, also reposition development adjacent to the border. The Land Use Planning Study for the FCA itself was completed in 2010. The study mapped the existing land uses, protected areas, constraints, and potentials and suggested that the land be mostly conserved as an ecological preserve that could promote tourism and recreational activities. The study became the Outline Zoning Plan, which organised land use into varying degrees of controlled occupancy, from the most strict, conservation, to green belt, to agriculture, to recreation. However, as proven in other parts of the New Territories, these designations are difficult to enforce. For conservationists and wildlife groups, the plan is not strict enough and will most probably result in land use abuses, which they see as a threat to the ecological value of the site. For villagers and their relatives, the plan is too restrictive, preventing them from exercising the long-anticipated rights to commercialise the land they have waited over sixty years to develop.

Given this stalemate in development in other parts of the FCA, the Lok Ma Chau Loop represents a potent development opportunity: a one-square-kilometre area of contaminated ground with scant ecological value, which was formed by the straightening of the Sham Chun River as part of a process of consolidating the border and to control flooding. Begun in 1992 and completed in 1997, the alignment of the natural meander left a residual piece of what used to be Shenzhen-owned land within the legal administration of Hong Kong. Due to its ambiguous status, its future occupation has been challenged by both sides. In 2007, a joint task force was set up ‘to explore the feasibility of developing the Loop on the basis of mutual benefit’. The resulting plan promises to deliver tertiary education and hi-tech research and development. The plan acknowledges the adjacent ecological context but utilises conventional planning tools such as land parcelling, zoning, height restrictions, and breezeways to organise the land. Although it is an important zone for Hong Kong, from the Shenzhen perspective it is minor compared with

Looking towards the Lok Ma Chau Loop in Hong Kong from Shenzhen.

the speed and scale of other development projects on the Chinese side of the border. In Qianhai, for instance, which is fifteen times bigger than the Loop, a project was approved in 2010 and is already under construction. The necessity to involve both governments and both planning departments in developing the Loop, together with Hong Kong’s democratic planning process, which requires public consultation, periods for objections, and finally legislative council approval, has meant the process has been laborious and the start date for construction is inconclusive.

SYNTHETIC ECOLOGIES The planning department is well aware of the challenges posed by both the Loop and the Frontier Closed Area, yet it is only able to resort to normative modes of planning to control and organise the contradictory desires latent at the site. This is to be expected, yet the unique status of the Frontier Closed Area and its symbolic significance as a buffer between Hong Kong and

the Mainland means that this is an unprecedented opportunity to approach planning differently. Rather than developing fixed plans, stable programmes, and linear investment models, our objective is to harness the characteristics of the FCA towards a more dynamic planning model, adopting looser frameworks for development that include scope for adaptation and future transformation. Critical to our approach is understanding the current FCA condition as a synthetic ecology. Its artificial character is driven by the paradox that the FCA is simultaneously an intensified space of flows and an undisturbed ecological haven. Looking more closely at specific examples, sets of relationships involving inputs and outputs that take advantage of by-products or loopholes are revealed within the system. The harnessing of these anomalous conditions to drive the creation of the ecology can be defined as a synthetic process. Two examples follow that can both be considered as synthetic ecologies. The first demonstrates how humans have intervened within natural processes and their by-products

to insert artificial links that intensify production; and the second how a loophole in regulations has initiated a one-of-a-kind urban condition characterised by a unique set of inputs and outputs. The fish-ponds and tidal shrimp inlets (Gei Wai) in the western part of the FCA are constructions that modify the landscape to take advantage of the natural flows of brackish water and the habitats created by the mangroves. Historically, these constructions were combined with silkworm farming and the planting of mulberry trees. The leaves are the sole food source of the silkworm, while the fruits and decaying leaves are eaten by fish and shrimp. The bark of the tree is also used in Chinese medicine. The interaction between these different cycles is metabolic, as each produces a constant supply of different outputs that either generate economy or feed back into the system to supply another cycle. This demonstrates the potential for human stewardship within natural processes to generate productive and sustained cycles of exchange. In the second example, the urban village phenomenon in Shenzhen exhibits cycles of exchange that can also be determined as synthetic. The loophole created by the difference between urban-hukou and rural-hukou residential status enabled local village farmers to construct extremely dense accommodation for rent to migrant workers who were flocking to Shenzhen to work in factories. These factories were built on land leased to Hong Kong or other foreign investors, taking advantage of the financial incentives offered by the Special Economic Zone. As the system evolved, migrants set up local businesses, such as restaurants, stores, markets, and in some cases prostitution rings, fake goods

markets, and other illegal activities. Its further development has seen the village collective operating as a business, investing in other parts of the Pearl River Delta, or leasing land to real estate developers. The creation of this separate condition has produced a form of urbanity not typically associated with the governmental planning common to the majority of Shenzhen. The flows of economy interrupt typical hierarchical systems, allowing village collectives to connect to foreign direct investment through exchanges across the border. The resultant urban fabric is textured and varied, containing a diversity of programmes, temporary uses, and small-scale public spaces, and involves a multiplicity of different stakeholders. These two examples show that one cannot separate the natural from the man-made, Hong Kong from the Mainland, or consider urbanism as a question of scale and spatial planning alone. The border brings together multiple scales, from local fish farmers to nationwide economic policy, and involves a multitude of stakeholders, including kinship alliances and global corporations. As demonstrated, as a device that both separates and connects, the border promotes exchange. In doing so, it facilitates a network of relationships that span the two sides. The interplay of these relationships – their inputs, outputs, and impact on the ground – is defined by us as a Border Ecology.

BORDER ECOLOGIES By approaching the problem of the future of the FCA as a Border Ecology rather than simply as a question of land-use planning, we are able to articulate an alternative model of development.


Both the fish-ponds in Hong Kong and the urban villages in Shenzhen can be described as synthetic ecologies.


Middle Class

Urban Resident

Emerging condition



Small business owner



Factory Owner

Cross-border + local network


Foreign Direct Investment

Private Developer



Village Corporate

Development of service economy















Cultural issue












Cross-border commuting

Financial Mobility Increasing

Knowledge Society


Emerging condition

HK Government Policy Changing focus




Differences across the border facilitate exchange



Micro-ecologies emerge through specific conditions created by the border, which are intensified at border control points


Anomolies within the border zone act as catalyst sites for new interventions


Tactical insertions harness and augment existing cycles of exchange to trigger transformation


The ecology unfolds over time, responding to the specific dynamics in the region


This model works with the unique relationships and exchanges currently operating within the area. Initial research into the overall frame distilled these into different micro-ecologies based on their characteristics and spatial effects. These are concentrated within certain sectors of the FCA yet also can be found in other parts of the site; for example, parallel trading is a phenomenon that exists throughout the border region but is intensified at the control points at Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau. These micro-ecologies reflect how exchanges across the border impact spatial changes on the ground. By understanding these dynamics, we can intervene within them. By augmenting existing cycles through the insertion of new programmes, activating stakeholders, or intensifying existing conditions, the aim is to set up new relations and new cycles of exchange that, in turn, transform the area.

Border Ecologies

Our proposal for the FCA comprises a series of specific tactical interventions. As tools, they set up clear organisational principles and spatial relationships. They have their own rules and logic about how they might evolve. They are designed as formal devices, yet each is constructed to allow its precise occupation and spatial development to unfold over time, responding to the particular dynamics within the region. In this way they enable different agencies – from governmental departments to villagers – to play a role in how spaces become defined. The ability to simultaneously link top-down planning strategies with bottom-up processes creates diverse urban forms, allowing for variation and a range of programmes, and engaging different sectors of the population.

renegotiated or terminated. The border may be dissolved and Hong Kong could become fully subsumed into Mainland China, losing its privileged status. As this chapter has outlined, the complexity of this issue is embedded in the border’s political, historical, and environmental context. By defining the border as an ecology, we can view it differently. This shift in perception allows us to consider a different approach to planning. Given that the future of the Frontier Closed Area represents a pivotal project, indicative of how Hong Kong intends to plan its future coexistence with the Motherland, it is an opportunity to test design concepts that can innovate scenarios which adapt and evolve to take account of the changing demands of the two sides. Conventional means of planning are missing the tools that might harness the uniqueness of what is already occurring as a result of border dynamics and the legacy of the Closed Area landscape. This book offers an alternative approach.

2047 In 2047, the fifty-year agreement stipulating that Hong Kong’s unique differences from the Mainland must remain unchanged will expire. 20 The ‘one country, two systems’ policy will be Hong Kong residents' dissatisfaction with the Chief Executive C.Y. Leung is expressed with slogans in country parks. 20 — Article 5 of the Basic Law states: ‘The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.’



1837 Painting of Hong Kong Island viewed from the north.

Captain Sir Edward Belcher first landed in Hong Kong to claim the island for Great Britain in 1841, marking the start of Hong Kong’s international relevance. At the time, Hong Kong Island was a barren rock populated with a few fishing and agricultural villages; its only significance had been as a salt producer during the Sung Dynasty (960–1297). 1 Prior to the British arrival in Hong Kong, the early and mid-Qing dynasty (1644–1842) was a period when China considered itself to be the centre of the world. 2 Geographically protected and surrounded by more primitive tribal societies, China did not engage in any significant cultural exchange in its early history, 3 and this had led to the development of a unique world view. This was challenged when the Portuguese arrived in 1514 and established trade relationships in

1 — Julia Wilkinson, ‘A Chinese Magistrate’s Fort’, City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City, ed. Ian Lambot (London: Watermark, 1999), 60.

Canton (later Guangzhou in Guangdong province). The British came later, in 1637. Foreign trade was permitted by China, but officials from trading nations were required to pay tribute missions to the emperor. These symbolic rituals, designed to affirm the superiority of the Chinese world order, were despised by foreign traders. 4 Measures were put in place to limit the influence foreigners might have on Chinese society, and these were later developed into the Canton System in 1757, a strict set of rules that required all overseas trade to be conducted through just thirteen Chinese merchant guilds, severely restricting contact between foreign traders and locals. These tight controls limited foreign entrepreneurial activity; however, the increasing European demand for Chinese goods still made trading under such restrictions lucrative.

2 — Li Zhaojie, ‘Traditional Chinese World Order’, Chinese Journal of International Law 1 (2002), 20–58.

3 — Ibid. 4 — Ibid.


1842–98: U N E Q U A L T R E AT I E S

1845 Painting by Major G. Martin of the visit of Keying, imperial Chinese commissioner to Hong Kong.

Circa. 1840 The destruction of opium by official Lin - Anon.

Hong Kong History

Chinese tea gained popularity in Britain from the mid-seventeenth century onwards, but there were few goods that Britain could offer China in return. This chronic trade deficit led the British to cultivate tea in India in an effort to break China’s monopoly, and they begin trading opium following the annexation of Bengal. With a reversal in the flow of silver and in the face of increasing opium consumption, the Chinese emperor took decisive action. In 1839, Chinese opium dealers were arrested and foreign traders in Canton were forced to hand over all the opium in their possession. These events led to the First Opium War (1839–42). The British emerged victorious, and the ending of the war was marked by the signing of the Treaty of Nanking. The terms of the treaty sought: compensation for the destroyed opium and war reparations; the liberalisation of trade by the removal of the restrictive Canton System and the

1898 Outpost on the boundary between British and Chinese territory, (following the line of presentday Boundary Street).

opening of four additional ports to foreign trade; and the ceding of Hong Kong Island to become a British trading base. The Second Opium War (1857–60) started as a result of China’s reluctance to renegotiate the Treaty of Nanking. Following another British victory, the Convention of Peking forced China to further liberalise trade, provide indemnity, allow embassies in Peking, and cede Kowloon Peninsula opposite Hong Kong Island. With China weakened after its loss in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory was signed in 1898. The British were worried about the proximity of the border and the defence of the colony, and the convention sought to create a larger buffer between the island and China. A ninety-nine-year lease to Britain was agreed for the territory north of Kowloon, called the New Territories.

1899 Meeting at Ping Shan between Sir Henry Blake and the gentry and elders of the New Territories communities.


1898–1950: I N S TA B I L I T Y

1942 Japanese soldier celebrating the occupation of Hong Kong anniversary.

The Xinhai Revolution in 1911 ended two thousand years of imperial rule in China. After the First Sino-Japanese War demonstrated China’s weakness, revolutionary ideas had developed. Led by Sun Yat Sen, Hong Kong became a base for subversive activities. The Qing state was displaced by the revolution, but despite the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 with Sun as president, a stable republic was not realised. After the revolution, many in Hong Kong believed that with the end of imperial rule in China, the colonial government would be next to disappear. 5 By 1912, the colony had seen civil unrest, assassination attempts, and bomb plots. In China, the continuing influence of foreign powers resulted in growing frustrations that finally ignited in 1919. When the decision was made to award the rights over Shandong province to Japan following World War I, students protested in Beijing, angered by the weak response of the Chinese government. Out of these protests, a student-led political and cultural campaign developed, which became known as the May Fourth Movement. The movement cultivated a desire for cultural and political change and led to the formation of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. In Hong Kong, a series of strikes in the 1920s were expressions of similar frustrations over a weakened China, British imperialism, and repression in the colony. 6 The Mechanics’ Strike (1920) and the Seamen’s Strike (1922) demonstrated a willingness to challenge the colonial government.

The Strike-Boycott (1925–26), on the other hand, was a direct confrontation with British imperialism. Spurred on by the British suppression of demonstrations in Shanghai and Canton that left 59 dead, the strike leaders in Canton called for all Chinese to leave Hong Kong. This resulted in an exodus of 250,000 people, which crippled the colony, requiring the British to borrow three million pounds to sustain the economy. 7 During this period, the main political parties in China were the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party. Although the two parties came together to form the First United Front (1923–27) in order to unify China, the differences between the two parties led to the Chinese Civil War (1927–36). With the onset of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Kuomintang and the Communists formed the Second National Front (1937–46) in an attempt to repel the Japanese invasion. Afterwards, however, the civil war resumed (1946–50). The Communists were victorious in establishing the People’s Republic of China in 1949. In defeat, the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan, where they proclaimed the temporary capital of the Republic of China.

5 — John Mark Carroll, A Concise History of Hong Kong (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 82. 6 — Ibid., 89–92. 7 — Ibid., 100.



1953 Shek Kip Mei squatter area.

1953 Shek Kip Mei squatter village fire.

Hong Kong History

Following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, Korea was divided at the thirty-eighth parallel, with the Soviet Union occupying the north and the United States the south. North Korean forces, supported by Chinese and Russian troops, invaded the south in 1950, shifting the geopolitical landscape in Asia along Cold War lines. Prior to this period in Hong Kong’s history, the border had been open, allowing a free flow of people from one side to the other. With Hong Kong remaining neutral in the Chinese Civil War, the open frontier meant that both sides utilised the colony as a source of supplies. However, with the growing influx of refugees in the latter stages of the civil war, the colonial government experimented with tightening its borders in 1949. Entry permits were required to visit Hong Kong, and all Hong Kong residents were required to register for an

1958 Hong Kong police and Chinese police on duty at Lowu bridge.

identity card. In 1950, a daily quota system was established to moderate the flow of visitors and limit legal migrants to fifty. With the United Nations placing sanctions on China, and under pressure from the United States, the colonial government made the bold move of militarising the border. The Frontier Closed Area was established in 1951. It was designed to help enforce the sanctions by creating a buffer zone that would stop smuggling, but it was also intended to keep out spies and stem illegal migrants from entering Hong Kong. This bordering of Hong Kong was a reflection of the Cold War realities of the time.

1958 Textile factory.



1967 Leftist riots.

The establishment of stricter border controls with China did little to mitigate the flow of refugees across the border. The reforms of Mao’s second five-year plan, including the Great Leap Forward campaign (1958–61), had a devastating impact. In attempting to quickly transform the country into a modern industrialised socialist state, the rapid changes contributed to the Great Chinese Famine (1959–61). Later, Mao set in motion the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) in order to purge the remnants of traditional Chinese society and the capitalist elements that were at odds with Communist ideology. These traumatic events pushed many to escape from China, and Hong Kong was considered a safe haven. The strict closing of the border in 1951 meant that refugees flowed into Hong Kong through illegal means. By 1962, the British started returning illegal immigrants, who were discreetly repatriated to China. Later, in 1974, the Touch Base Policy was implemented to further quell the flow of refugees. However, the policy allowed illegal immigrants to stay once they reached urban Hong Kong and met up with relatives. It was abolished in 1980, after which point all Hong Kong residents were registered and required to carry identity cards in

1969 Electronics factory.

public, which made it much harder to stay illegally in the colony. With the increasing social provisions offered by the government, together with fear of political agitators, the flow of refugees was perceived as problematic. Flashpoints in the colony during the 1960s only heightened these concerns: the Star Ferry Riot in 1966 was caused by growing dissatisfaction with the government, and the Leftist Riots of 1967 mobilised pro-Communists to demonstrate against British rule. However, post-war refugees were a critical component in the success of Hong Kong’s economy. Following the embargoes placed on China, Hong Kong’s role as an entrepôt diminished and there was an acute necessity to reorient the economy. 8 Industrialists who escaped from China provided the colony with skilled labour, technology, and capital. 9 Meanwhile, low-skilled refugees provided a steady stream of cheap labour. This convergence allowed Hong Kong to quickly transition from an economy based on trade to a modern manufacturing economy. Labour-intensive industries grew in the late 1950s, with a focus on textiles and clothing. By the 1960s, the electronics, plastics, toy, and watch industries had developed.

8 — Michael Scott Houf, ‘The Re-invention of Hong Kong during the Post-War Period’ (PhD diss., 2002), 257.

9 — Laura Madokoro, ‘Borders Transformed: Sovereign Concerns, Population Movements and the Making of Territorial Frontiers in Hong Kong, 1949–1967’, Journal of Refugee Studies 25 (2012), 407–27.


1978–97: I N T E G R AT I O N

1997 Handover ceremony.

Hong Kong History

After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, Deng Xiaoping rose to power and began implementing economic reforms, introducing market principles under the banner of ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’. New policies were trialled in Special Economic Zones, created in 1980 in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, and Xiamen. These new administrative regions became laboratories that tested the economic and social effects within a limited and controlled environment. This enabled the Chinese government to develop and refine successful policy models before they were replicated nationwide. The Open Door Policy that China adopted in 1978 affected Hong Kong’s economy, allowing it once again to facilitate trade between China and the rest of the world, but also repositioning it as a gateway for investment flowing into China. Much of Hong Kong’s domestic manufacturing migrated across

10 — Naubahar Sharif and Mitchell M. Tseng, ‘The Role of Hong Kong in Mainland China’s Modernization in Manufacturing’, Asian Survey 51 (2011), 633–58.

the border to take advantage of the cheaper land and labour. The experience gained in Hong Kong’s manufacturing sector helped kick-start China’s industry, but this outsourcing also helped develop an emerging managerial class crucial to Hong Kong’s own transformation into a service-oriented economy. 10 It was in this context that the British and Chinese governments started negotiations over the future of Hong Kong. With the colony growing increasingly dependent on China and the prospect looming of Britain having to return the New Territories at the end of the ninety-nine-year lease, it became apparent that it would be implausible for the British to retain Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. The Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 agreed that the whole of Hong Kong would be returned to China in 1997.

2003 CEPA signing ceremony.


1997–2003: E C O N O M I C S TA G N AT I O N

2003 Preventive measures taken after SARS outbreak.

The colony was returned to China in 1997, becoming a Special Administrative Region (SAR) under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. In the same year, the Asian financial crisis led to a decline in the economy that was compounded by the 2001 recession and the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. The Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Hong Kong and China is an ongoing free-trade agreement designed to stimulate further economic integration of the two economies. First signed in 2003, it removed barriers for Hong Kong companies in the trade of goods and services and facilitated investment. Although it promoted further investment in China and eased the transfer of knowledge, it had greater benefit for Hong Kong as the colony already had minimal trade barriers prior to CEPA due to its free-port status. 11

11 — Hung-Gay Fung and Zhang Jian, ‘An Assessment of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between China and Hong Kong’, Chinese Economy 40 (2007), 36–50.

Initiatives contained within CEPA, such as the Individual Visit Scheme, have been regularly modified and expanded. Initially, the scheme allowed Mainland visitors from eight provincial cities to travel to Hong Kong on an individual basis, stimulating the tourism sector. This had increased to forty-nine cities by 2007, boosting the number of people eligible to 270 million. Porosity was further increased with the introduction of multiple-entry Individual Visit Endorsement, available to Shenzhen residents. Now in its tenth supplement, CEPA has been a prominent tool in renegotiating border dynamics between Hong Kong and China.



2003 Protest over the Antisubversion Law.

2012 Protest over the proposed Moral and National Education reform.

Hong Kong History

This period has been marked by rising discontent over when and how universal suffrage – the ability for Hong Kongers to vote for their own chief executive – will occur. With the National People’s Congress Standing Committee repeatedly pushing back the date when this will happen, firstly from 2007 to 2012, and then to 2017, the frustrations culminated when Beijing announced in 2014 that universal suffrage would only occur on effectively prescreened candidates. Outraged by this decision, and with their determination compounded by policy heavy-handedness early on in the management of the issue, the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement and other pro-democracy groups encamped in four separate locations in the city for a total of seventy-nine days. Additional discord has been caused by the perception that the Chinese government regularly influences decisions made in Hong Kong. In 2003, more than 500,000 people took to the streets in protest over a proposed anti-subversion law that would have overturned existing security laws established in the colonial period. 12 Later, the chief executive, Donald Tsang, controversially proposed that the subject ‘Moral and National Education’ be a compulsory part of the school curriculum, provoking ninety thousand people to demonstrate in 2012. In 2015, the suspicious disappearance of five Hong Kong residents connected to a local bookstore that legally published and sold books banned in China raised further concerns about the autonomy of the SAR.

Since 2003, Hong Kong’s border has radically changed. The release of land in the Frontier Closed Area was proposed in 2006, with the staggered reduction commencing in 2012 and ending in 2016. The Lok Ma Chau spur line control point (2007), the Hong Kong–Shenzhen Western Corridor and Shenzhen Bay control point (2007), and the upgrading of existing infrastructure have improved connectivity between Hong Kong and the Mainland. However, further integration with the Mainland has been increasingly questioned. Ongoing infrastructural projects by the Hong Kong government, such as the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link (estimated date of completion 2018) and the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge (scheduled for 2017), have been criticised for prioritising integration with the Mainland at the expense of local projects, fuelling the further resentment of the Hong Kong government. 13 This latest phase in Hong Kong’s history has been notable for its demonstration of public dissent over certain decisions made by the SAR government and the perceived encroachment of the Chinese state on Hong Kong affairs.

12 — Joseph Cheng, ‘The Pro-Democracy Movement: A Lost Decade?’ European View 7 (2008), 53–66. 13 — Kris Cheng, ‘CY Blames Filibuster for Blocking Infrastructure Projects, Affecting Jobs for Graduates’, Hong Kong Free Press, January 26, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016,

Wax figurine tableau of the 1984 meeting between Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher, 69th floor, Diwang Building. The tableau clearly articulates the idea of 'Shen Kong' and its ideological underpinning the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty.


SHEN KONG: CUI BONO? As an adjective, ‘Shen Kong’ refers to Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the former colony of Hong Kong – a geopolitical referent that invokes Mandarin and Anglo-Cantonese cultural identities. In fact, the end of the colonial era has been one of the most important ideological referents for Shenzhen identity. On the sixty-ninth floor of the Diwang (地王 , literally Land King) Building, for example, is a photo gallery and Lan Kwai Fong-style eatery to commemorate Hong Kong’s return. In this obviously dated tableau, wax figures of Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping sit next to each other, anticipating the vindication of the Opium Wars, gunboat diplomacy, and Britain’s colonial legacy in south China. Likewise, in Nantou there are antiopium exhibits, and the Shenzhen City Museum dedicates a large section to anti-colonial installations. 1 In fact, until 1997, Shenzhen residents eagerly anticipated the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty (回归 ), and erected buildings and neighbourhoods that were literally called Shen Kong (深港 ). Nevertheless, even as the importance of the handover has faded and Shenzhen and Hong Kong have continued to negotiate border protocols and levels of integration, so too the meaning of Shen Kong has continued to shift. 2 This chapter unpacks some of the key moments in the ongoing construction, dismantling, and repurposing of the Shenzhen–Hong Kong border, with an eye towards understanding the complex relationships between the cartographic border (with its checkpoints

1 The British occupation of Hong Kong took place through a series of three treaties: the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing, the 1860 Treaty of Beijing, and the 1898 Convention between Great Britain and China Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory. The border at stake in this essay was established in 1898. However, the sense of outrage about the fact of Hong Kong begins in 1840, when the British decided to fight a war to force the Chinese to allow the sale of opium within their borders. William Gladstone argued against Britain’s role in the First Opium War, saying, ‘A war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated to cover this country with permanent disgrace, I do not know and have not read of … The British flag is hoisted to protect an infamous traffic; … we should recoil from its sight with horror.’ Quoted in Rey Chow, ‘King Kong in Hong Kong: Watching the “Handover” from the USA’, Social Text 55 (1998), 96. 2 See Joshua Bolchover’s contribution to this volume, ‘Interstitial Infrastructure’, for a discussion of how the meaning of the Shenzhen–Hong Kong border has changed since 1997.


and barbed wire) and its unruly appropriations as ‘Shen Kong’ – sites in Shenzhen where situated actors have used (ever-changing) border regulations to achieve particular goals. We ground our discussion in the socialist landscapes of pre-Reform Bao’an County before analysing how Shenzhen residents – with household residency and without, local and recent arrivals – have appropriated Shen Kong (and its latent possibilities) to transform an underpopulated agrarian landscape into China’s fourth city.


Chen Bing’an identifies the Defence Zone borders as: Dapeng Bay in the east, the Shenzhen River in the south, Maozhou River in the west, and Shanxia in the north. 3 Conversations with older locals, however, suggest that the northern border of the Defence Zone might not have been as far north as Shanxia. An older gentleman remembered that the northern boundary of the Frontier Defence Zone coincided with Luosha Road, which used to be a Frontier Defence Road between Shatoujiao and Lianhua. He was not sure, however, how the line extended west, positing that it might have followed the coast until Qianhai – suggesting that although the Frontier Defence Zone occupied more territory than the original Special Zone, nevertheless it functioned as a strategic buffer zone between Hong Kong and China. 4 Older residents’ vagueness about the exact borders of the Defence Zone, as well as their regulated access to Hong Kong, remind us that throughout the Cold War, the Sino-British border (as well as the Sino-Portuguese border at Zhuhai and the Taiwan Straits) was not treated in the same way as China’s other borders, which were drawn and enforced to secure political

Mary Ann O’Donnell & Viola Yan Wan

The cartographic border that defines Shen Kong dates back to 1898, when the Sino-British border was redrawn along the Shenzhen River and extended west (towards Shatoujiao) and east (dividing Deep Bay into Chinese and British sections). In 1914, the British opened the Kowloon Canton Railway (KCR). Within Bao’an County, KCR stations passed through Weitou-speaking Shenzhen Market and Hakka-speaking Buji before entering Cantonese Dongguan, effectively bypassing traditional trade routes along the Pearl River. The border remained free and open until the Korean War, when Great Britain allied with the United States. The border was closed in July 1950, and on October 15, 1951, the Chinese central government announced the establishment of a Frontier Defence Zone (边防区 ) along the border, which comprised a series of checkpoints and increasing levels of security clearance. A frontier pass (边防通行证) was necessary to enter the northern section of the Defence Zone. An exception pass (特许证 ) allowed the holder to pass through the next checkpoint to enter the restricted area (禁区 ). The military cordon (警戒线 ) was established within fifty to one hundred metres of the border, which was itself designated the highest-level military cordon (最高警戒区 ).

3 See Chen Bing’an, Fleeing to Hong Kong (大逃港) , Hong Kong: Open PagePress, 2011. 4 Research interview, 2016.


stability in areas inhabited by non-Han populations. 5 Instead, Chinese leaders consistently deployed the Sino-British border as an instrument of domestic development and as a site for adjusting Chinese foreign policy.

Shen Kong: Cui Bono?

In 1953, the Bao’an County seat was moved from Nantou (on the Pearl River) to Caiwuwei (next to the Luohu checkpoint and Shenzhen Market). This new location allowed the government both to administer the Bao’an Frontier Defence Zone and to regulate cross-border flows of water and agricultural products (from Bao’an to Hong Kong) and inflows of hard currency (from Hong Kong to Bao’an), making the border a key element in domestic governance. In 1957, for example, Zhou Enlai publicly stated that Hong Kong should remain a free port with connections to other ports in order to train talents as a means of ‘turn[ing] disadvantages into advantages’ for China’s long-term development. There was no question that Hong Kong was and would remain Chinese and that the colonial status quo was part of a ‘serve our need’ strategy, delaying the return of Hong Kong until ‘the time was ripe’. 6 To achieve this long-term goal, the Chinese government pursued cross-border infrastructural integration through initiatives such as the East River Shenzhen Waterworks Project, which stabilised living conditions in Hong Kong while putting increased pressure on Bao’an residents. Between 1958 and 1964, for example, Bao’an communes deployed young workers to meet both agricultural production quotas and waterworks construction deadlines, resulting in widespread sleep deprivation. One villager remembered that, ‘at the time, all young workers battled day and night, there were no machines to excavate, and we carried baskets of soil on our shoulders, wearing out our clothes and chafing our shoulders. We ate and lived on the construction sites and only slept three to five hours at night.’ 7 Once Hong Kong’s water situation had stabilised, the colony’s industrialisation initiatives resulted in growing discrepancies between the relative standards of living on the two sides of the border. 8 A series of responses to the famine that resulted from the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961) further illustrates that border regulations in Bao’an County were persistently adjusted to regulate both domestic and international problems. In 1961, Guangdong Province implemented the ‘three fives’ policy. The three fives were: every month, Bao’an residents could go to Hong Kong up to five times; the goods that they brought into Hong Kong to sell could not be worth more than five rmb; and goods they brought back couldn’t weigh more than 5 jin (2.5 kilos) or value more than five rmb. The result allowed goods to travel back and forth across the border, achieving the larger goal of frontier stability. However, in 1962, when it became clear that neither the British in Hong Kong nor the Nationalists in Taiwan could handle the number of fleeing refugees (estimated at 200,000 in three years), the border was increasingly tightened, and small-scale cross-border commerce became more difficult, but not impossible. 9

5 M. Taylor Fravel, ‘Securing Borders: China’s Doctrine and Force Structure for Frontier Defense’, Journal of Strategic Studies 30, 4–5 (2007), 705–37. 6 Wu Bangguo, The Basic Law and Hong Kong: The 15th Anniversary of Reunification with the Motherland, Hong Kong: Working Group on Overseas Community of the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee, 2012, 5 ( 7 ‘这一时期,全体青壮年劳动力日夜备战,没 有机械用锹挖土用肩挑,磨烂了衣服破了肩 膀,吃住在工地,每天只睡三五个小时’ , Tang

Dongmei, Smoke on the Water: Oral History of the Shajing Jiwei People (水上见炊烟:沙 井基围人口口述史), Guangzhou: Huacheng Publishers, 2013, 78. 8 K.W. Chau notes that during the early years of Hong Kong industrialisation, water shortages were resolved by rationing water to residents in order to keep factories running. See ‘Management of Limited Water Resources in Hong Kong’, International Journal of Water Resources Development 9, 1 (2011), 68–72. 9 Chen Bing’an, Fleeing.


The strategic use of the Sino-British border during the Cold War anticipated the emergence of post-Mao Shen Kong in two important ways.

Second, both the national government and local people deployed the border to achieve specific goals. When those goals were not in conflict with each other, border regulations were loosely enforced. However, when the goals of individuals came into conflict with national goals, border regulations for Chinese citizens would be more strictly enforced to achieve national goals, such as the stability of Hong Kong. Between 1950 and 1980, both the British and Chinese governments increasingly enforced the segregation. In turn, governing Bao’an – especially the Frontier Defence Zone – hinged on balancing the demands of national policy and the relative accessibility of Hong Kong. Bao’an cadres were expected to prevent villagers from permanently fleeing to Hong Kong, even when – in the words of one border native – ‘only the incompetent couldn’t make it across’ and ‘women practised swimming so that they could cross into Hong Kong and find husbands.’ 13 Susan Buck-Morss contends that within Communist countries, history became the medium of progress towards socialism, such that immediate geopolitical concerns could be delayed in order to advance industrial development; the point was to develop as quickly as possible in order to achieve necessary conditions for the establishment of international Communism. 14 In other words, from the perspective of the state, the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty could be delayed for as much time as was deemed necessary to build a strong China, both politically and economically. Nevertheless, Mao’s ideal of ‘permanent revolution’ or ‘continuous revolution’ as the means by which Chinese society could advance quickly often resulted in social upheavals that made everyday life precarious, and so Bao’an farmers (and others in the region) continued to flee to Hong Kong. 15 The emergence of the idea of ‘Hong Kong belonger’ in 1971 catalysed the consolidation of a local identity that operated within and against the idea of ‘China’ even

10 We Chat conversation with Liao Honglei, April 1, 2016. 11 ‘Analysis of the Shen Kong Border (解析深港 边界) ’, Shenzhen Government online ( 12 Liao Honglei, Vernacular Shenzhen (深圳民间 熟语 ), Shenzhen: Baoye Press, 2013. 13 Interviews with Futian villagers, summer 2015. 14 Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 2000. 15 In the 1958 Sixty Articles on Work Methods, Mao defined permanent revolution () and its importance to the development of China: ‘Our revolutions follow each other, one after another. Beginning with the seizure of power on a nationwide scale in 1949, there followed first the anti-feudal land reform; as soon as land reform was completed, agricultural cooperativization was begun. There also followed the socialist transformation of private industry, commerce and handicrafts … [T]he socialist revolution in the ownership of the means of production was basically completed in 1956. Following this, we carried out last year [1957] the socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts … We must now have a technical revolution in order to catch up with and overtake England in fifteen years or a bit longer … Our revolution is like fighting a war. After winning one battle, we must immediately put forward new tasks.’ Translation and citation from Stuart R. Schram, ‘Mao Tse-tung and the Theory of the Permanent Revolution, 1958–69’, China Quarterly 46 (1971), 226–27.

Mary Ann O’Donnell & Viola Yan Wan

First, Bao’an County was segregated into two sections, with locals living within the Frontier Defence Area having privileged access to Hong Kong. Shatoujiao, Luofang, and Yumin villages, for example, lay within the restricted area, and even local Bao’an residents needed to apply for an exception pass to enter. 10 In addition, thirtyone Bao’an border villages had land claims of up to 3,616 mu (241 hectares) of arable land in the New Territories, while New Territory villages claimed 402 mu (26.8 hectares) of arable land in Bao’an. Along the border, some two thousand villagers from at least thirtyone natural villages were issued cross-border farming passes (耕作 证 ). 11 Local fishing villages also continued to operate in shared waters, including the Shenzhen River. In fact, throughout the Cold War, Bao’an County also supplied fish to Hong Kong, as well as vegetables, poultry, pork, and even grasshoppers (蚂蚱 ), which became deep-fried treats. 12


as Bao’an locals continued to cross into Hong Kong and establish residency there. 16 Thus, in the separation and delayed return, in Cold War definitions of this bloc and that, in the organisation of border patrols and the construction of cross-border infrastructure, differences proliferated and new identities emerged north and south of the Shenzhen River.


Shen Kong: Cui Bono?

After coming to power in 1978, Deng Xiaoping pushed forward Reform and Opening because he understood that the economic gap between China and the developed world had political implications. Indeed, he maintained that migration from Bao’an to Hong Kong was a result of poor policies that could only be curtailed by improving the general standard of living on the Chinese side of the border. In other words, from the point of view of the Chinese state, the establishment of the Special Zone was a pragmatic response to a political problem. 17 In 1979, Bao’an County was elevated to Shenzhen Municipality, and in 1980 the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was created within its borders. The earliest urban plans for the Special Zone built upon Bao’an County’s extant Cold War network of cross-border integration, specifically at the Luohu railway station and Wenjingdu shipping checkpoint. Key landmarks included the Bagualing and Shangbu (Huaqiangbei) Industrial Parks, the Dongmen market areas, and Luohu Commercial City, as well as the Yuanling, Bashaling, and Binhe Estates and public institutions such as the Grand Theatre and the Museum of Science and Technology. Well into the new millennium, this area was known as ‘downtown’ or, more simply, ‘Shenzhen’. West of the Shanghai Hotel were Shenzhen’s suburbs, where the city authorised commercial poultry farming and recreational areas, such as the Honey Lake Resort, which boasted a castle, a roller coaster, and a diversity of dining experiences. Vast distance separated downtown Shenzhen from its suburbs; Old Shenzheners often travelled two hours (one way) on winding dirt roads to enjoy a day off relaxing at Honey Lake. Experimental construction of the city system accompanied early adjustments to the border regime, with provisos for ‘compatriot’ capital to bring manufacturing to Shenzhen. From 1980 to 2000, for example, conservative estimates suggested that 70 % of direct foreign investment in Shenzhen came from Hong Kong, and that investment in Shenzhen made up 30 % of Hong Kong investment in the Mainland. Economically, it was a successful strategy. Through Hong Kong, Shenzhen secured access to global markets, while via Shenzhen, Hong Kong manufacturers were able to expand despite labour shortages, rising production costs, and growing competition from other East and Southeast Asian economies by displacing manufacturing to Shenzhen. 18 Moreover, the proximity of the two cities allowed Hong Kong investors to achieve a remarkable

16 See Agnes S. Ku, ‘Immigration Policies, Discourses, and the Politics of Local Belonging in Hong Kong (1950–1980)’, Modern China 30, 3 (2004), 326–60. 17 In Mandarin, the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (Shenzhen Jingji Tequ) is known as the ‘Tequ’ or ‘Special Zone’. We have chosen to use this expression, rather than the more common English abbreviation SEZ, because the phrase ‘Special Zone’ more accurately captures the social and ideological nuances that Shenzhen has held for Chinese people, especially those who have migrated to the city to pursue their dreams of a better life. 18 Ching Kwan Lee contextualises the transfer of manufacturing from Hong Kong to Shenzhen and the concomitant economic restructuring in Gender and the South China Miracle: Two Worlds of Factory Women, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.


advantage because they did not have to finance an expatriate staff to oversee their investments; in other words, Hong Kong investors enjoyed the benefits of oversees investing without the costs of actually going overseas and having to hire a support staff. These savings came to as much as a quarter million dollars per year per expatriate. 19 Locally, this cross-border strategy of gradated access to value was known as ‘store in front, factory in back (前店后厂 )’. Shenzhen intensified these border effects by constructing its own internal border, ‘the second line (二线 )’, which functioned analogously to the Shenzhen–Hong Kong border: capital could cross the border in either direction, but workers – even the young, educated professionals from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou – needed border passes to enter the Special Zone, creating a wide range of possible social identities, which were broadly classified as Shenzhener, local, and migrant. 20

For Old Shenzheners, Shen Kong assumed vexed cultural significance for two interrelated reasons. On the one hand, Hong Kong was held up as an example of a modern city. Old Shenzheners were familiar with Hong Kong architecture, popular music, and fashion. They directly adopted Hong Kong expressions such as ‘husband (老公 )’ and ‘pretty woman (靓女 )’ into their Mandarin vocabularies, while younger migrants learned Cantonese by watching Hong Kong television programmes and singing Canto-pop karaoke. They also worked with the first generation of Hong Kong investors, who by and large did not speak Mandarin, expecting their employees to learn Cantonese. In addition, Luohu’s extensive commercial areas simultaneously catered to Hong Kong people seeking cheap products and entertainment and Mainland people seeking to purchase imported goods (Dongmen). Many Old Shenzheners have said that if the early Special Zone had a culture, it came via Hong Kong rather than Guangzhou.

20 For a broader history of the borders that have constituted Shenzhen, see Emma Xin Ma and Adrian Blackwell, ‘The Political Architecture of the First and Second Lines’, in O’Donnell et al.

Mary Ann O’Donnell & Viola Yan Wan

The city’s first generation of immigrants, the so-called ‘Old Shenzheners’, built and lived in Luohu, their children attending nearby elementary schools and then taking tests to attend either Shenzhen Middle School or Shenzhen Experimental. Old Shenzheners were urban-to-urban migrants who had professional and social goals. Most took first jobs that paid better but were of lower status than their home town jobs. What’s more, like Deng Xiaoping, many Old Shenzheners were idealists who hoped to fix what had gone wrong in China’s cities during the Cultural Revolution. In 1982, for example, Teacher Chu left her job at Zhongshan University, where she taught Marxist economics, in order to work as a secretary in a Shenzhen construction company. At the time, there were no dorms for women, no televisions, and no private telephones, luxuries that, as a university professor, she had enjoyed in Guangzhou. Important news, such as the death of a beloved grandmother, came by telegraph. Nevertheless, Teacher Chu came ‘in order to do something’. Another friend once explained that when she first came to Shenzhen in 1983, there was something special about the people as they figured out how to be ‘modern’ and ‘international’ in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.

19 Weiping Wu, ‘Proximity and Complementarity in Hong Kong–Shenzhen Industrialization’, Asian Survey 37, 8 (1997), 771–93.




New Bao’an County Seat

Old Shenzhen





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Shen Kong: Cui Bono?

Map of Shenzhen Administrative Districts, circa 1985, Shenzhen Place Names (深圳市地名志 ), Shenzhen Municipality, 1986. Note that planned development is limited to ‘Old Shenzhen’, Shekou, and the New Bao'an County Seat, which was located next to the second line along the G107 Expressway (image translated by Mary Ann O'Donnell).

On the other hand, the Special Zone ‘store in front, factory in back’ model of development presupposed an enforceable border, such that workers on the Chinese side of the border could not work in Hong Kong (where salaries and wages were often ten times higher), even as Hong Kong capital easily operated within Shenzhen. Unlike Hong Kong people, who could easily enter the Special Zone on the basis of their identity cards, Shenzhen residents could not readily enter Hong Kong (with the exception of Bao’an locals who maintained crossborder passes from the previous decades). This enforced inequality meant that many cross-border jobs entailed catering to the cultural habits and desires of Hong Kong businessmen, who often visited spas for massage, partied in local bars with hostesses, and set up second wives – activities that were more strictly regulated outside the Special Zone in both the Mainland and Hong Kong. In this sense, Old Shenzheners have also viewed Hong Kong as a place where relative wealth allowed for arrogance and lax morality.

I NDIGENOUS SHEN KONG: TRANSFORMING THE VILLAGES The transfer of agricultural lands from Bao’an collectives to urban work units predicated the construction of the early Special Zone in Luohu and Shangbu. In practice, this meant that urban ministries or provincial institutions would propose a plan to construct a factory area and worker housing. Once approved, institutional representatives negotiated compensation packages with a local village to transfer

Ko ng




necessary tracts of land from the collective to the state. During the 1980s, this piecemeal process benefited villages in Luohu and Shangbu, which used compensation money as seed capital for collective enterprises that included constructing industrial parks, selling agricultural products in Hong Kong, and organising the import of Hong Kong goods to sell in village markets. The most famous of these early new villages was Luohu’s Fishing Yumincun (渔民村 ), which Deng Xiaoping visited in 1984 on the tour that justified the extension of Reform and Opening policies into China’s coastal cities.

New villages were complex, semi-formal entities that comprised collectively held factories and housing estates, privately held rental properties, and public areas, including streets and plazas. Importantly, there was no truly alienable property within a village. Village men could apply to the village company for housing plots to construct houses for themselves, children, and potential grandchildren. Children could inherit their father’s building(s); however, only the village corporation could sell buildings to nonvillagers. The government had agreed to allow villagers to build private homes in the expectation that they would build 2.5-storey family homes on hundred-square-metre plots. Instead, villagers built six- to eight-storey (sometimes higher) rental properties that became their primary source of income. These buildings were constructed so close to each other that it was possible for residents to reach out their windows and shake hands with their neighbours; they became colloquially known as ‘handshakes (握手楼 )’. In addition, village corporations assumed responsibility for organising holiday activities, the maintenance of ancestral halls and temples, and the upkeep of public spaces, including public plazas, small park areas, and exercise stations.

21 Shenzhen reorganised its neighbourhoods and villages into communities (社区 , shequ) through a protracted process of establishing community centres throughout the city between 2005 and 2010, and then integrating community and neighbourhood offices in 2011. See ‘Evolving Community Governance of Shenzhen Community Neighborhoods (社会治 理演变中的深圳社区居委会) ’, accessed online at

Mary Ann O’Donnell & Viola Yan Wan

In 1990, the Shenzhen government reorganised, promoting a more comprehensive vision for the development of the Special Zone. To this end, in 1991 Shenzhen initiated the rural urbanisation movement (农村城市化运动 ), appropriating all village lands within the Special Zone into the state apparatus and changing villagers’ hukou status from Bao’an to Shenzhen. This ‘double transformation’ facilitated the Special Zone’s westward expansion from its epicentre in Luohu into Futian (formerly called Shangbu), as it allowed for more comprehensive planning. The reconstituted villages were integrated into the municipal apparatus as neighbourhoods (居委会 , juweihui), which have been the basic administrative unit of Chinese cities. 21 However, to provide villages with post-agricultural livelihoods, the government compensation had two components: the establishment of collective limited companies (股份公司 ) and individual housing plots (宅基地 , zhaijidi). The result was a transitional urban typology between China’s urban and rural sectors – the new village, where the government owned the land but a corporate village not only managed the property holdings of an entire neighbourhood but also provided limited public services, such as water and electricity. Membership in the village corporation was hereditary with respect to traditional genealogies.


The layout and structure of each village varied depending on three factors: its location with respect to the early Special Zone, how much land the village retained, and how much the village corporation invested in village planning. Many Luohu villages, for example, transferred collective lands before 1992 without investing in public space and with limited manufacturing holdings. Moreover, because they were located near the border in the centre of the early Special Zone, Luohu villages tended to specialise in cross-border trading and entertainment facilities for Hong Kong businessmen. In contrast, Futian (Shangbu) villages, such as Shuiwei, Huanggang, Shangxia, and Shangsha, were located in the early Special Zone’s immediate suburbs and thus had larger industrial parks. Entertainment became more important to Futian villages only after the Huanggang checkpoint opened for individual crossings in 1991, roughly contemporaneous with the construction of these villages. Moreover, as urban construction had not yet extended into Futian, these villages were also able to secure larger tracts of land for public spaces, which in turn allowed them to invest in urban planning projects. Shen Kong: Cui Bono?

The villages’ semi-formal status has allowed them to mediate the transition from Bao’an to Special Zone in two ways. First, village histories legitimate the claim that Shen Kong’s history transcends current borders, justifying decisions to increasingly incorporate elements of Hong Kong society into Shenzhen. The Wen (c. Man, 文 ) family of Gangxia, for example, traces its genealogy to the Yuan Dynasty, claiming the Southern Song scholar hero Wen Tianxiang as an ancestor. Their lineage history allies them with Wen villages in Dongguan, Shenzhen, and the New Territories. From the perspective of the Gangxia Wens, the history of Shen Kong is unbroken family history. Indeed, the lineage associations of Dongguan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong assert historic continuity despite over six hundred years of political vicissitudes, such as changing dynasties and revolutions. As we have seen, even during the Cold War, Hong Kong remained a viable resource for Bao’an villages, and Gangxia Wens were not the only locals who fled to Hong Kong, bringing their valuables with them and registering with a New Territory family association. These cross-border relationships allowed refugees to find jobs in Hong Kong, while continuing to help family members still living in home villages. Today, ‘Gangxia’ refers to both a small village where the Wen ancestral hall still stands and a high-end renovation project in one of the most expensive commercial areas in Futian District. 22 Second, the existence of new villages allowed Shenzhen to outsource many public services for arriving immigrants and low-income families. Under state socialism, urban work units had provided workers with housing, access to medical care, and education for children – and in fact the early Special Zone was constructed according to this model. However, after Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 Southern Tour, Shenzhen companies increasingly experimented with using the market to provide public services. In the decade from 1990

22 For a detailed examination of the implications of the rise and redevelopment of Gangxia, see reTumu Urban/Rural Institute, Gangxia Rashomon (刚下罗生门 ), Shenzhen: reTumu Urban/Rural Institute, December 2015.


to 1999, Shenzhen’s official population grew from 1.68 million to 6.33 million, while unofficial estimates suggested the actual population could have been as high as ten million. 23 As Shenzhen’s population boomed, new villages provided not only basic housing but also unregistered schools and clinics for migrants. By the mid-1990s, new villages served both urban-to-urban and rural-to-urban migrants as their gateway to the Special Zone. 24


In the decade following 2000, the central government began to liberalise restrictions on the Shenzhen–Hong Kong border and Shenzhen’s internal border (the second line). In 2003, promulgation of the Individual Visit Scheme allowed for Mainland Chinese to visit Hong Kong independently, rather than only on a tour visa. In 2009, the adoption of M-Permits allowed Shenzhen residents to move easily between the two cities. These changes to regulation of the Shenzhen–Hong Kong border occurred contemporaneously with adjustments to Shenzhen’s internal border. In late 2003, following a debate in the Guangdong People’s Congress, Shenzhen began closing tolerated but illegal second-line crossing points and loosening restrictions for entering the Special Zone. By 2004, Chinese citizens were able to enter the Special Zone without travel passes, a policy shift that would be formalised in 2010, when the borders of the Special Zone were made contiguous with city borders. The children of Old Shenzheners, Bao’an locals, and legal migrants came of age with the city’s shifting borders and the concomitant changing understanding of the city itself. Affectionately called ‘Shen 2s (深二 )’, this generation explicitly identifies with Shenzhen rather than with their parents’ home towns and villages. During the 1980s and 1990s, while their parents built the Special Zone and new villages, Shen 2s attended school together, learning English from

24 The landholdings of outer district villages in Bao’an and Longgang were not expropriated until 2004, with important consequences. For the purposes of this paper, our discussion of Shenzhen’s urban villages has focused on villages immediately adjacent to the Shenzhen–Hong Kong border. Jonathan Bach discusses the broader implications of Shenzhen’s rural urbanisation in ‘They Come In Peasants and Leave Citizens: Urban Villages and the Making of Shenzhen, China’, Cultural Anthropology 25, 3 (2010), 421–58.

Mary Ann O’Donnell & Viola Yan Wan

During the 1980s, ‘Shen Kong’ referred to two different ways of relating to Hong Kong. Old Shenzheners approached Hong Kong through the narratives of modernisation and internationalisation, but could not freely cross the border. Bao’an locals experienced Hong Kong as an estranged homeland to which they had had continuous, albeit regulated, access. This selective regulation of the border facilitated rural urbanisation and the transition from the Bao’an Frontier Zone to the Special Zone. In the 1990s, Shenzhen’s population boom and concomitant construction of new villages not only changed the landscape but enabled low-cost, rapid urbanisation precisely because the villages accommodated large populations at no expense to the government. In other words, in the twenty years after the establishment of Shenzhen, Shen Kong facilitated the transition from Bao’an to the Special Zone by providing a framework for negotiating the historic fallout of domestic policies within and against Cold War realpolitik.

23 The Shenzhen City Statistical Gazetteer is available online ( tjsj/tjnj/). Estimates for unofficial population derived from conversations with developers and urban planners. During the 1990s, Shenzhen’s population growth rate breached 20 % per year, its highest rate in the city’s thirty-five years of existence.


Hong Kong textbooks and wearing a common citywide uniform. In contrast, elsewhere in China, English lessons began much later and each school had its own uniform. Shen 2s made excursions to Honey Lake when it was far away, have visceral memories of lining up to buy hamburgers and French fries at China’s first McDonald’s in Dongmen, and frequently visit Hong Kong. Most grew up speaking both standard Mandarin and Cantonese. Indeed, unlike their parents and latter-day migrants, Shen 2s embody the multiplicities of Shen Kong: they are as interested in Shenzhen’s pre-1980 history as they are in Hong Kong street life and crossing the border to watch movies that have been banned in China.

Shen Kong: Cui Bono?

Not surprisingly, class differences within the Shen 2 generation reflect their parents’ gradated access to the Special Zone and Hong Kong years ago. Shen 2s who grew up in Luohu when it was still colloquially known as Shenzhen have an untroubled identification with the city. In contrast, a sense of estrangement vexes Shen 2s who grew up outside the second line. These Shen 2s remember sneaking across the border to visit ‘Shenzhen’ on special occasions. Similarly, the children of Bao’an locals are aware that Old Shenzheners and their children have occupied traditional landholdings, and the question of injustice lingers: why should they benefit from our land when we did not? What’s more, many Hakka Shen 2s worry that their children (like their young cousins) will not speak Hakka. Meanwhile, the children of migrants without Shenzhen household residency have grappled less with problems of cultural identity than they have with the practical necessity of securing legal rights to the city through a Shenzhen hukou. As Shenzhen entered its fourth decade, questions about legal rights to the city became even more pressing. This question has had two interrelated components. The first is the right to affordable housing within or near Luohu and Futian, which remain the city’s political, economic, and cultural centre. The second is the hukou rights for the children of permanent residents. Importantly, both of these questions reflected changing understandings of Shen Kong. Firstly, accelerating urbanisation in Luohu and Futian surrounded and dwarfed the new villages, giving rise to the expression ‘villagesin-the-city (城中村 , chengzhongcun)’ or urban village. When Shenzhen announced its urban renewal policy in 2007, urban villages were considered ‘dirty, chaotic, and substandard (脏乱差 )’, in part because of their population density. 25 Indeed, the expression ‘urban village’ functioned synonymously with ‘slum’. Recent urban renewal projects have targeted the villages, especially along the Shenzhen– Hong Kong border. The demolitions of Caiwuwei and Gangxia, for example, displaced as many as 100,000 people per village from Luohu and Futian respectively. Even more importantly, the demolitions have destroyed not only inexpensive housing options but also lowcapital venues for start-up, small-scale companies and ‘mom-and-pop’ stores. Indeed, with explicit government support, developers have transformed Shenzhen’s traditional gateways into high-end housing

25 See Shenzhen Government paper 159, 2007, entitled ‘Announcement about Related Matters to the Work of Developing of Urban Villages (Old Villages)’ (《关于开展城中村 (旧村)改造工作有关事项的通知》深圳政府办 [2007]159号).


and commercial and business areas, hardening the city’s class structure and effectively limiting general access to Shen Kong, which used to be available to immigrants via the villages.

26 Announced by Shenzhen general secretary Ma Xingrui in January 2016.

Mary Ann O’Donnell & Viola Yan Wan

Secondly, during the 2000s, immigration had slowed but not stopped, and by the end of 2015 the city’s administrative population had reached 20 million people. 26 To keep pace, Shenzhen has liberalised its household registration laws, and inhabitants with permanent residency and their children have increasingly enjoyed social welfare, including the right to compulsory education in Shenzhen rather than in their home town. These laws have given rise to a generation of Shen 2s who must first attend a local college or trade school in order to secure permanent residency in the city. Indeed, the primary task of schools whose population comprises the children of permanent residents is to secure test results that will allow students to stay in Shenzhen for high school, with the expectation that they can then easily enter college. These schools are mostly located in Shenzhen’s suburban districts. Consequently, members of this Shen 2 cohort do not speak Cantonese fluently or, when they do, prefer to speak Mandarin largely because they have been excluded from Shen Kong, growing up in overwhelmingly Mandarin-speaking environments and denied permits to travel to Hong Kong. Thirdly, the establishment of the Qianhai Hong Kong Modern Service Cooperation Zone (前海深港现代服务业合作区 ) aims to institutionalise on Shenzhen territory financial and legal instruments that are currently located in Hong Kong. Geographically, the Qianhai area includes Shekou and Xixiang, straddling the former second line, emphasising the emergence of Shenzhen (as opposed to the Special Zone). Qianhai represents the latest phase in the ongoing deterritorialisation and re-embedding of the Shenzhen–Hong Kong border to achieve national goals. Qianhai is part of the larger ‘One Belt, One Road (一带一路 )’ initiative to lay a ‘new Silk Road’ that will allow China to capture higher levels of value from production not only in the Pearl River Delta but also beyond its geographical borders.

SHEN KONG: CUI BONO? On the face of it, Shenzhen seems securely placed just north of Hong Kong. We say ‘Shen Kong’ without questioning its referent because even if its ancient no longer exists, Shenzhen and Hong Kong did compose an older whole – Xin’an. This imagined totality grounds Shen Kong, transforming the border from an instrument of absolute exclusion into ‘an apparatus for calibrating people in conjunction with capital, goods, and natural elements such as water (and increasingly air)’. 27 At second glance, however, the expression ‘Shen Kong’ forcefully reminds us that the border has been repeatedly appropriated by

27 Jonathan Bach, personal communication. For an elaboration of this argument, see ‘Introduction: Learning from Shenzhen: Experiments, Exceptions, and Extensions’, in O’Donnell et al.


distinct levels of government, by differently positioned capitalists, and by diverse actors to achieve a wide range of intentions. The border does not partition Shenzhen and Hong Kong so much as it has allowed for ongoing regulation of differences within the region. Simply put, there is no single Shen Kong but a myriad of Shen Kongs, which are constantly in play even as handover ceremonies, waterworks, and border-crossing protocols attempt to stabilise the assertion that Shenzhen and Hong Kong are discrete cities. Indeed, if the history of Shen Kong teaches us anything, perhaps it is simply this: within the current iteration of the world system, borders enable the calibration, management, and control of adjacent territories with relation to each other as if they were geographically isolated, even as they administratively suture geographically distant areas (such as Beijing and Hong Kong) into coherent geopolitical assemblages.

Shen Kong: Cui Bono?

In April 2015, the central government tightened the border against Shenzhen residents, limiting visiting rights from unlimited to once weekly. For individuals, this may produce some inconvenience, but by and large this decision was taken – as have been previous decisions – to stabilise the border and promote state interests.

THE FRONTIER CLOSED AREA Bas Princen December 2015


Border metabolic diagram identifying both programmatic and natural microecologies as well as interrelated crossborder flows and systems.

Border Ecologies develops a tactical framework that draws on four key concepts. Firstly, an ecology of urbanism needs to fundamentally draw on aspects of both domains. Secondly, the concept of a border ecology implies that adaptations of cross-border dynamics can create prototypical conditions which can form an ecosystems approach. Thirdly, by focusing on in-situ loopholes as the locations where micro-ecologies and prototypes emerge, we can develop a methodology to design tactical scenarios within the larger systems imposed by the border. Fourthly, these tactical scenarios can be linked through metabolic exchange to create an assemblage that operates as a strategic plan, which can evolve and adapt as the local and regional dynamics of the border change.

TACTICAL FRAMEWORK 1.  ECOLOGY OF URBANISATION The integrated synthesis of the natural and the man-made towards an ecosystem requires identifying common and contested territories between urban and non-urban on the one hand and between the natural and the inorganic on the other. Ecological approaches often are diametrically opposed to urban development tendencies. Whilst urban development typically generates a topography of actors and agents that motivate urban change, understood as a concentration of economic capital and transformation capability in cities, ecological approaches, by contrast, generally advocate a return to the ‘natural’ or a pre-urban,

underdeveloped state that in some ways seeks to restrict urban development. The disparity between them is not only in practical application but also in their conceptualisation. As Jane Jacobs and David Harvey have written, the modern city can be seen as a concentration of capital and resources arranged under the logics of economy, whilst the natural habitat is structured in terms of ecology. 1 Both share the conceptual link between the economic and the ecological in the common root ecos, or dwelling place. However, despite their common origin, as Harvey has outlined, spatial articulations in urban domains increasingly tend to be a ‘contested territory between ecologists and economists’, 2

In this context, Harvey argues for a paradigm shift ‘from urban ecology to the ecology of urbanisation’. 3 He contends that urban ecology is the simple adaptation of ecology systems to urbanism such as we may find in an ecological development applied within the conventional, spatially predicated logics of urban planning but which does not at its core change the nature of urban planning. This would necessitate completely rethinking and integrating urbanisation into an environmental, ecological approach. For example: approaches to greening a building or an area in a city – a form of ‘greenwashing’ – do not address root issues of the unsustainable practices of most urban development. In other words, he advocates that this is not a patching or adjustment of one discipline to the other but a deeper embedding, if not fundamental reconceptualisation, of both practices. It follows that any ecosystem able to deal with the effects of both urbanism and ecological processes needs to integrate the man-made environmental with the ecological. Urban practices thereby need to incorporate the eco-logics of codependency and metabolism of its parts whilst ecology needs to incorporate the anthropogenic or man-made urban and settlement practices within its understanding of the environment as a whole. Various approaches have explored adaptations of urbanism to ecology. For instance: recombinant ecology utilises cross-disciplinary formations of urban, biological, and social disciplines and practices in arrangements that systematically integrate ecological relationships that are not fully present in the original knowledge fields. This method broadly recombines resource systems into what can be termed a series of meshworks. 4 A meshwork is a conceptual framework that

1 — Ernst Haekel, the nineteenth-century biologist and zoologist, coined the term ‘ecology’, Ökologie, from Greek oikos, meaning ‘house, dwelling place, or habitation’, and logia or logos, being ‘the study of’. ‘Economy’ derives from oikos and nomos, meaning ‘stewardship, management, frugal, or thrifty’, or from nemein, meaning ‘to manage’ and related to numismatic (money).

combines different non-hierarchical or heterogeneous systems using complementary linkages between the systems to create greater synergies and potential ecologies. For example, an ecosystem is a type of meshwork that brings together a variety of animals and plants in a food or nutrient web. However, sometimes these elements may not mesh well, necessitating intermediary elements. In marketplaces, money or barter systems form this intermediary, allowing buyers and sellers to exchange or transact, eventually becoming a part of the ecosystem of that market itself. The meshwork from recombinant approaches use urban, natural, social, and cultural resources by: firstly, aligning and reconciling these resources; secondly, developing organisational logics and protocols governing the integration of resource flows in an environment; and, thirdly, by closing the energy or circulatory loops, facilitating pathways between resource usage and output. This shifts emphasis onto the operational strategies between the different constituent systems, allowing for flexibility between the different scales of operation, thereby linking formerly unconnected parts of the system into positive-feedback loops. As a predominantly non-hierarchical approach, it serves to impart a systemic intelligence or organisational rubric to the ecosystem that activates potentials for self-­­organisation. Clearly, in common with all ecosystems, the environment in this configuration is not a neutral space or a passive environmental container within which development occurs; it has a reciprocal role and changes as the ecosystem develops. Additionally, in combined urban-ecological approaches, the temporal and evolutionary can no longer be independent factors but must become part of the ecosystem. These operate

2 — David Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference, London: WileyBlackwell, 1996, 205. 3 — Ibid., 426. 4 — Meshwork is a concept propagated by Manuel De Landa, derived from the concepts of ‘rhizomes’ and ‘striated’ and ‘smooth’ space of Deleuze and Guattari.

5 — Jane Jacobs, The Nature of Economies, New York: Random House, 2000, 86. Others have outlined dynamic models of urban development, including Christopher Alexander in The City Is Not a Tree and Manuel De Landa in ‘Extensive and Intensive’ (Domus 892 [May 2006], 152–53), who has argued that key spatial or city metrics of ‘extensivity’ or spatial metrics should be replaced by degrees of ‘intensivity’ that are diachronic, variable, and changing, privileging the temporal and evolving over the purely spatial.


one that exemplifies the differing conceptions of space and time and the divergent values that both these fields have.

85 Tactical Framework

within different periods of time at different spatial scales. The constraints that privilege the spatial in conventional frameworks of statutory planning processes, despite their embedded (linear) mechanisms of phasing, need to encompass the principles of ecological urbanism. As systems generally predicated on linear flows, conventional urban plans require continual linear inputs of resources and energy to maintain them. In a combined urban-ecology concept, spatial development becomes contingent on the resource systems and energy loops that are able to contribute to that system. When waste outputs are looped as inputs for a different process, recycling energy and matter through alternative pathways, the economy of the ecosystem benefits in various ways, whether it be socially, culturally, economically, or environmentally. As a closed-loop system that is able to be self-corrective and adaptive to change, it allows for multiple development pathways as the system evolves. As Jacobs articulated in The Nature of Economies, the coexistence of the man-made with nature is part of a ‘natural’ order that must be valued as contributions to a dynamically stable system. In her view, this has four key requirements and capabilities: ‘bifurcations; positive-feedback loops; negative-feedback controls; and emergency adaptations’. 5 These conditions actively engage with future changes and help underpin the urban-ecology resilience, where ‘bifurcation’ allows for divergence of outcome and development pathways; ‘positive-feedback loops’ generate the emergence of new dependencies; ‘negative-feedback loops’ work to regulate the system; and ‘emergency adaptations’ build in capabilities for flexibility and the potential for systemic change. Jacobs’s assertion highlights the necessity to embed principles of ecosystem ‘succession’ within urban development as one permits the evolution into

higher-order, self-sustaining urban environments. This follows the tendency of ecosystems which, as they mature, develop multiple rhizomatic 6 or dendritic pathways that serve to minimise energy use in the circulation of nutrients and resources. This stage of ecosystem development generally favours dynamic adaptability over more stable configuration, in which the growth of multiple pathways acts as an adaptation to external or internal changes. In this scenario, processes of composition, decomposition, and morphosis become dynamic feedback loops within the ecosystem rather than a one-way flow of linear inputs and outputs, and can engage the dynamics of the man-made urban environment and the biosphere as feedback mechanisms. For an ecology of urbanisation approach, the biotic growth and species propagation become supplanted by self-regulating urban development, whilst nutrient webs can become expanded into energy, resource, and other programmatic cycles that provide a range of different inputs and outputs. Scenario formation and elaboration of multiple pathways of development become critical to this process in the orchestration of possible openended, non-planned 7 outcomes.

6 — Rhizome is a non-hierarchical, root-like conception of knowledge developed by Deleuze and Guattari. 7 — For the non-plan we have referenced in previous writings, see: ‘Metabolic Urbanism: City as Process’, Global Visions: Risks and Opportunities for the Urban Planet, 2012, 5th IFoU conference, NUS, Singapore.


87 Tactical Framework Metabolic flows conceptual model.


2.  BORDER AS ECOSYSTEM Border and ecology are at first glance an unlikely and contradictory coupling. A border region can generally be considered an open system, in which the flow of people, goods, resources, and money requires considerable external inputs from either side to maintain it. Specifically, open-loop systems are typically characterised by dissipative linear flows that lack the feedback systems found in biological systems and natural ecologies which permit those systems to reorganise their energy flows and resource usage in response to changes in their environment. Such systems also lack the capability to self-generate, sustain, or recycle outputs, and continually require external inputs to maintain them. However, our contention is that it is in these very dynamic conditions of border regions that adaptation occurs and the emergence or fostering of new urban forms of ecosystem can be situated. Subject to rapid changes and shifts in global and transnational economics, macro-policies, and their geopolitical contexts, the differences created by borders consequently lead to a range of cross-border flows, eddies, and turbulences. These flows can be inherently complex and volatile, and include the legitimate and illicit traffic of people, goods, contraband, and capital, and impact urban conditions on either side. Within border urbanity, these cross-border dynamics, 8 where forces acting from afar impact urban development on the other side of the border, result in unevenly developed and

8 — Others, such as Neil Brenner, Implosions/ Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization, Berlin: Jovis, 2014, have proposed ‘urban hyperobjects’ or metabolic rubrics acting from afar to reassess the conceptual frameworks for urban developments in ways that can encompass urban dynamics and conditions of global impacts on local conditions. Keller Easterling has written extensively on this issue in theform of ‘extrastatecraft’ and the development of special economic zones and vehicles that enclave specific parts or processes of urban systems. Mike Davis has also approached this from a socio-spatial perspective, outlining how emergent cultural groups in LA have stronger cultural ties to Tijuana in Mexico. More philosophical positions are argued by Timothy Morton in Ecology without Nature and Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence, which take the radical positioning of the ecotopic, in which nature is not in opposition to the man-made.

fragmented urbanities. This type of development does not accord with conventional approaches that accept the city as a relatively discrete, stable entity, governed and regulated by conventional planning logics that are procedurally unable to deal with dynamic change. Similarly, many sustainable urban development and technocratic approaches require regulation and a relatively stable urban environment for their operation and do not readily adapt to anomalous contexts or the volatilities of a border region. Additionally, urbanised borders are morphological and spatial anomalies when compared with more normal city forms and spatial types. They distort spatial, sociocultural, and economic factors away from centric or polycentric models of urbanity towards morphologies in which the primary engine and dynamic of that region’s development is conditioned and determined by the border itself. As a territory of difference, borders generate a spectrum of urban forms and temporal phenomena that call for a range of understandings of both urban development and the ecosystems defining cross-border relationships. In such environments we can find the seeds for different modes of development and a different organisation of space that reorders pre-existent patterns, separations, and divisions dynamically. Usually these are found as local adaptations that respond to the larger macro flows and forces at work. These adaptations employ a complex range

9 — ‘Anthropogenic metabolism’ is a term used in material flow analysis and waste management that explains the metabolic processes used to maintain human existence. This is allied to conceptions of urban and ecological footprint used in evaluation of the resource dependencies of cities and individuals. 10 — Stephen Read, ‘The Form of the Future’, Future City, eds. S. Read, J. Rosemann, and J. van Eldijk, London: Routledge, 2012, 13. 11 — Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. S. Rendall, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.


3.  TACTICAL FRAMEWORK of informal and formal mechanisms that regulate, exploit, feed off, and contribute to the metabolic conditions of that border. To understand how aspects of these dynamics can become part of an ecosystems approach requires a multivalent method that positions the localised adaptations with respect to their dependency on a larger context and cross-border issues. Amongst other aspects, it requires consideration of: • The need for a responsive, adaptive approach in the engagement of the intangible and invisible dynamics and how these become manifest as urban forms.

Tactical Framework

• How the mechanisms of negative feedback can be repositioned and rechannelled into positive-feedback systems to allow for ecosystem development. • The need to isolate discrete eco-topes (biotic and abiotic, natural and anthropogenic) as potential constituent parts in a wider border ecosystem strategy. • The need for mechanisms to catalyse, mediate, or activate urban development as cyclical processes. • The necessity for multiple pathways for development, and in parallel the need for multiple outcomes. • The significance of a non-linear methodology and importance of the tactical as a means of adaptation in larger cross-border conditions. As such, our conceptualisation and positioning is more closely allied to anthropogenic metabolism 9 (itself derived from material and energy cycle or flow analysis) in opposition to the linear throughput systems that characterise development of most cities and urban settlements. The border for us is positioned as a form of metabolic urbanism where the various forces, inputs, outputs, flows, and cross-border inequalities construct the metabolic conditions that are necessary parts of an open ecosystem.

As outlined above, border dynamics are often governed by macro flows that leave tangible impacts on border regions in the form of spatial fragmentation, changing local settlement patterns in proximity to these larger dynamics. These can be considered as processes that seek to balance the various forces at work across the border. The emergent balancing processes, however, manifest themselves in locally adjacent contexts and therefore need to be understood from a tactical point of view in how they impact those particular locations. As Stephen Read has written: ‘The urban world is as much an ecology of competing power interests capable of manipulating the field in a top-down fashion, as it is an ecology of synergetic agents who evolve structures from the bottom up.’ 10 This implies that whilst we cannot ignore the larger dynamics of a border, its impacts are found as tactics in local contexts. In other words, local effects are adaptations of larger macro flows, within specific spatial and environmental parameters. For instance, informal regulation contra over-regulation, supply versus demand, flow and control, are all factors that are evident in the recent relaxing of border controls regulating the passage, volume, and duration of Mainlanders into HK as a stimulus to the economy in the commercial and tourism sectors. This is mirrored by the increase in cross-border illicit ‘parallel trading’ as a unique socio-economic ecosystem that takes advantage of the larger macro flows. Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life outlines a framework for the tactical: ‘Tactics are procedures that gain validity in relation to the pertinence they lend to time – to the circumstances which the precise instant of an intervention transforms into a favourable situation, to the rapidity of the movements that change the organization of a space ...’ 11 He poses tactics as an adaptation, an act of making-do, an attitude of bricolage, or as actions in a constant state of reassessment and adjustment based on interactions in that environment. Tactics therefore have an inherently localised and temporal characteristic, with the agility to change depending on shifts in the situation or context. In contrast, the strategic he sees as an institutionalised, rationalised, and bounded expression of power

In recent years, tactical urbanism as emergent and bottom-up approaches to urban renewal has grown. This form of urbanism is in diametric opposition to the top-down strategic urbanism of the planner. Conversely, Border Ecologies does not position its approach as oppositional to planning, but seeks to embed a tactical urban methodology that combines localised bottom-up understanding of local adaptations, in which stakeholders have found tactical loopholes in the existing structures, together with temporally based scenario formation and an ecosystems approach in order to develop a dynamic planning framework. This we understand as a form of Harvey’s ‘ecology of urbanisation’. The tactical approach is employed to understand how existing border dynamics and their spatiality in different locations can be prototypical 13 factors for border ecosystems as localised adaptations to the larger cross-border dynamic flows. This approach necessitates extensive local fieldwork on factors impacted by the border, including sociocultural spatial issues, local urban dynamics, and urban transformation processes. The fieldwork is supplemented by additional investigation and research into historic developmental patterns and the evolution of former ecological processes or sustainable practices in order to identify prototypical systems. Additionally, an understanding of previous processes of urban development highlights the ruptures, discontinuities, contestations, or anomalous conditions characteristic of that place, situated within the border’s larger geopolitical, cultural, and economic context.

12 — Ibid.

The analysis of unique urban formations, the identification of environmental possibilities, and the understanding of stakeholders’, actors’, and agents’ motivations and roles within the border conditions are also indexed as necessary components in the approach. This method is a multivalent and multi-scalar reworking of the border dynamics applied to a location. In this process, metabolic processes – dynamic cycles of exchange – whereby the output of one cycle feeds the input of another are harnessed to allow for reciprocation between the anthropogenic and natural ecosystems. The proposed systems are reconfigured as relational processes that can direct or curate urban development, choreographing the dynamics into a specific urban ecosystem. We term this a programmatic ecology, characterised by the variety, adaptability, and interrelated nature of its species of components. These allow for multiple pathways of development, redundancies, obsolescence, and adaptability to changes in border dynamics. These processes require catalysation and positive-feedback loops as well as negative-feedback controls in order to selfregulate the local metabolic cycle. In turn, these loops can feed into other loops as part of a wider metabolic system. Initially, baseline work developed a series of speculative propositions that positioned the Hong Kong–Shenzhen border and the FCA within more conventional projective urban propositions. This served to extract and filter the wider complexity into a series of propositions that break down the economic, political, cultural, and spatio-temporal conditions found along the border into eight clear programmatic issues particular to the urban and landscape morphologies in those areas. The preliminary work highlighted the need for a border-related ecological approach that generated micro-ecologies capable of responding and being sustainable in the context of the macro flows. Although generated from and specifically applicable to the conditions of the Hong Kong–

13 — Proto Urban conditions is a concept developed by Chora Institute of Architecture and Urbanism with contributions from the authors. See R. Bunschoten, Urban Flotsam: Stirring the City, Rotterdam: Chora Institute of Architecture and Urbanism, 2001, 010.


that has at its root control, stability, and predictability, serving to isolate it from its environment: ‘A strategy assumes a place that can be circumscribed as proper … and thus serve as the basis for generating relations with an exterior distinct from it.’ 12 De Certeau exemplifies this as a city, a scientific institution, or as the political and economic systems of social and civic control and regulation.


Shenzhen border, the understanding of border dynamics and the abstraction of principles, mechanisms, and spatial phenomena enables the derivation of dynamic tools able to deal with a range of different types of border ecologies. The assumption here is that urban borders are prevalent in many manifestations, not only as transnational or geopolitical entities. Therefore, the potential of planning tools and mechanisms that enable effective channelling of border dynamics into micro-ecological systems able to deal with a variety of conditions can generate further applications in other contexts. In other words, the principles can be applied in different contexts elsewhere, not only with transnational borders but with urban borders in general.

Tactical Framework

Border Ecologies’ approach to the Hong Kong– Shenzhen border is structured into four interrelated methodological parts. This approach aims to derive tactical forms of micro-ecology based on the border dynamics from different locations along the border. The intention is that the application of the four parts outlined can lead to: firstly, a diversity of applicability in very different border contexts and environments that can take into account the variety of border conditions; secondly, open-ended or multiple possible pathways for development rather than predetermined, singular, master-planned outcomes; thirdly, different micro-ecologies that have the possibility to extend, multiply, or be propagated and interconnected to generate more complex, larger-scale ecosystems. The four-part methodology is a non-sequential but reflexive practice involving a continual process of evaluation and adaptation. In other words, the application of the methodology may call on different aspects in a different sequence according to the specifics of that ecosystem or context. Broadly concordant with ecology succession development models, the four parts are outlined below:

I RESOURCING / DYNAMICS Resourcing establishes the dynamics of a location through extensive sampling and fieldwork. Its two main objectives are: firstly, to establish the human systems (spatial, cultural, social, economic, and political) and environmental systems (natural, manmade, biotic, geographical, geological, atmospheric) of the eco-tope 14; and secondly, to assess and determine contributing factors to the dynamics in that place as a correlation of bottom-up or on-theground factors or ‘ground-truthing’. The derivation of dynamic factors for the proposed micro-ecologies comes from the harnessing of these dynamics into ecosystems. The identification and assessment of the dynamics in the resourcing stage draws from diverse sources that include social patterns, actors, agents, and stakeholders, economic processes, spatial evolutions, urban development patterns, material economies, cultural habits, environmental conditions, and existing biosystems and so on. The dynamics take into consideration both local flows and their relationships to larger cross-border flows. This process normally requires supplementary contextual investigation to understand metabolic causality on the macro scale, including cross-border flows, as well as the urban and environmental development patterns and evolutions specific to the processes engaged in that location. II LOOPING / AUGMENTATION Looping / augmentation outlines a process that can transform a linear process into a metabolic one. The looping process is contingent on the implementation of feedback and metabolic loops that can occur between the dynamic constituents of the micro-ecology, as well as through interactions from other ecosystems or from external loops and cross-border flows. The different loops require integration and alignments between, for instance, a programmatic loop and an environmental one, meaning that processes of cause and effect or input and output must be structured into the alignments,

14 — Eco-tope is a term used in landscape ecology characterising the habitat of both manmade and natural organisms that live in it, also referred to as an ecologicial ‘patch’.








considering how the different scales of flow impact on specific locations and their dynamic potentials. This is particularly important as the metabolic conditions are not only understood as belonging to natural systems but may relate to existing land practices, urban informal development patterns, social or cultural practices, or external pressures on urban and speculative development. This step is therefore context dependent and derived from the understanding of the dynamic factors of the local context.

Tactical Framework

The looping process activates existing dynamics into programmatic ecologies and metabolic relationships in the micro-ecology. Through the reconfiguration and integration process, it also incorporates new processes that encourage and enrich further augmentation and development of multiple development pathways. As existing practices are metabolised or become redundant, the original prototype catalyst can augment or feed the ecosystem dynamics in a repeated cycle. The looping and augmentation processes therefore allow for the fine-tuning of the micro-ecology, in effect becoming a regulator or self-regulator of the system. The metabolic loops may vary in number, impact, or scope but are nonetheless intrinsic to the micro-ecology, and are derived from the natural environmental conditions, from the man-made environment, and from the urban, economic, social, and cultural practices present. III ACTIVATION / CATALYSATION The activation of the micro-ecologies occurs through the input of catalytic prototypes. These prototypes are primarily programmatic and spatial insertions that are architectonic in scope and scale, aimed towards the disruption of, or interference within, existing patterns to permit the reconfiguration of the former discrete and separated linear systems into metabolic systems and feedback loops. Their positioning and operational logic is usually considered as a function of two or more aligned metabolic loops, so that the prototype can activate exchanges and flows between these – bridging between, for example, social amenity and infrastructural ecology or between informal landuse pattern and the emergence of new ecological landscape. Their role is therefore strategically and dynamically positioned rather than a purely spatial configuration, and is determined from conditions on either side of the border.

Drawing on the dynamic processes already present and identified in a location, the insertion of spatial and programmatic catalysts initiates the proposed ecosystem in order to create new symbiotic relations and complexities by bringing in new socio-economic conditions, environmental factors, and activities that contribute to the development of metabolic flows. Once the ecology is operational, they continue to function as augmentations serving to moderate the various micro-ecologies’ metabolisms. This regulates development through the alteration of the inputs and outputs of the metabolic loops towards a desired practice, allowing for continual adjustment of the micro-ecology. IV ADAPTATION / SUCCESSION Succession refers to the evolution and transformation of the system through successive stages of development towards ecosystem and sustainable development stability. Within singular instances of micro-ecology, the determining factors may be too weak to have longer-term sustainable impacts. The propagation of the micro-ecologies therefore allows for mutually beneficial larger ecologies that have impacts for larger areas and territories in which the processes of adaptation, growth, and expansion of micro-ecologies to wider contexts may generate succession potentials. As an ‘infill’, micro-ecologies link to the originating ecosystem in loosely planned or unplanned ways that help to generate multiple development pathways, and diverse scenarios and outcomes. Succession therefore needs to consider the interrelation to other micro-ecologies as potential constituents of a larger evolved territory or plan that results from the combined metabolism and choreography of flows across the whole border. Given the instabilities of the macro flows of the border, the inbuilt resilience is critical to the evolution and development of the micro-ecology.

4.  COMPOSITION AND ASSEMBLAGE Border Ecologies' baseline analysis of the Hong Kong–Shenzhen border consisted of a series of speculative propositions testing the reprogramming of the Frontier Closed Area. This approach takes into consideration the overall understanding of the macro flows and dynamics of the border region, its different habitats, its developed areas

Tactics model showing the six tactical scenarios.

and settlement patterns, its morphologies and land uses, as well as its social structures, local economy, and cultural patterns. The analysis of these conditions developed a methodology that allowed for the positioning of six tactical scenarios and their corresponding microecologies: Enclaves and Codependency, Inbetweeners, Interstitial Infrastructure, Scarred Landscapes, Invisible Exchanges, and Village Alliances. The six scenarios, as described in the following chapters, are testing grounds to show the potentials of the propositions and their corresponding micro-ecologies. The tactical scenarios work by synthesising context-specific environmental, spatial, and dynamic conditions into micro-ecologies that connect to existing cross-border conditions but can equally become integral parts of other metabolic systems. Therefore, it follows that the connection of different tactical scenarios through their metabolic flows, where an output of one tactical scenario can become the input of another, opens up possibilities for the proliferation and joining of multiple tactical scenarios into a larger whole, which we term the strategic dynamic plan. In addition to the metabolic inputs and outputs, this can also happen through their programmatic and spatial manifestations as a synergy between development and the resultant ecosystem.

The strategic dynamic plan is therefore composed from and linked to the locally situated tactical scenarios, each part allowing for adaptation and adjustment to the dynamics of its specific scenario whilst contributing to the larger dynamics of the region. Analogous to concepts of assemblage theory, 15 the strategic dynamic plan can operate at a range of different scales: on the scale of the local tactical scenario, as combinations of the tactical scenarios, or as an integrated whole. Further, the interrelated parts can be choreographed for different outcomes, building into the composition the ability to absorb changes in situ. This allows for different temporalities and stages of development and succession to occur. The strategic dynamic plan is able to evolve, and to be adaptive, flexible, and dynamic, and it can unfold in time in accordance with larger geopolitical, economic, or demographic changes on the one hand or local changes and needs on the other. The range of future outcomes that can be generated in turn encourages symbiotic relationships to form a more resilient ecosystem. The integration of the tactical scenarios and micro-ecologies can occur in three or more principal ways. Firstly: through the adjacency of one tactical scenario to a nearby or adjoining tactical scenario, enabling exchange or the integration of the

spatial and programmatic scenarios into the adjoining scenario. For example, Scarred Landscapes and its Ring types of microecologies may generate types of small-scale bioremediation outputs that can contribute as an input to the Interstitial Infrastructure systems. Secondly: the linking of one tactic and its microecology to external or larger cross-border flows can alter the dynamics of that scenario, leading to possible accelerated or reduced development. For instance, the growth or reduction in the numbers of cross-border schoolchildren may input into the In-betweeners tactical scenario, changing their dependencies. Thirdly: through connection to non-adjacent tactical scenarios, in which the effects of one begin to alter the dynamics and metabolic conditions of another. For instance, if cross-border flows of people in Village Alliances increase, leading to the development of a range of educational institutions, then this could impact In-betweeners in terms of the crossborder flow of people seeking educational opportunities on the Hong Kong side. A further degree of adaptability is factored in through the deployment of the micro-ecologies. The additional growth, evolution, and proliferation of these in areas not specific to the tactical scenario can serve as a mechanism to further regulate or promote urban-ecological development and sustainable growth in the region.

As an integrated composition, the combination of bottom-up or emergent tactical scenarios with the strategic dynamic plan allows for flexibility, adaptability, and temporal forms of planning for the region as a whole. Multiple outcomes for the border region and Frontier Closed Area are therefore possible and encouraged.

15 — Assemblage theory, developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1980), derives from dynamic systems theory. It is premised on the way heterogeneous systems self-organise into contingent or interlinked assemblages that involve processes of stratification and territorialisation.

Residential enclaves such as Fairview Park at Hong Kong's north western edge are embedded within the existing landscape of fish-ponds, wetlands and other forms of aquatic agriculture.


The western edge of the Frontier Closed Area at Deep Bay presents a pattern of highly contrasting landscape and urban forms. Islands of suburban residential enclaves sit within a wetland surface of aqua-cultural ponds. Linear canals of water extend out to the estuarine mudflat, where they meet with fringes of mangrove. This morphology is a historic register of the changing uses of the land and of the dialogue between human intervention and natural processes. Underlying this diversity is the estuarine ecology, characterised by the unique dynamics that exist at the threshold between the sea and the land, and when salt water meets fresh water. Although Shenzhen’s transformation from farmland to urban fabric represents an obvious, and welldocumented, artificial change in land use, Hong Kong’s landscape has also undergone multiple reconstructions. This is pronounced in the Deep Bay area, which has been subject to sequential alterations that have each harnessed the uniqueness of the wetland environment. However, the current condition is a moment of uneasy stasis, a quiescent landscape that belies the contradictory pressures of development versus preservation. Hong Kong’s limited size intensifies this pressure. The demand for affordable real estate coupled with the excessive profit margins of developers is pitched against government measures to preserve country parks as natural escape valves. Rather than disputing whether the use of this land is a choice between natural and

urban forms, this article will conceive of this territory as an example of an urban nature, 1 a conjugation that means that the distinction between the terms is no longer productive. The landscape results from human intervention aimed at increased agricultural and economic productivity. Yet at the same time, the territory has evolved into a unique ecological habitat. As the political debate over the future use of these lands becomes more immediate due to the opening up of the Frontier Closed Area (FCA), we will argue for a strategy that restarts the process of transformation of the land. The essay contends that the current stasis will ultimately result in the demise of the environment, and so our aim is to enhance and alter the existing dynamics of the site in order to create an alternative economic driver that is reliant on, and derives from, the current ecology at the site. Rather than follow binary oppositions of nature versus culture, development versus preservation, building versus landscape, the aim is to create a social, ecological assemblage that offers an alternative political and ecological position for the future occupation of this territory.

1 — Maria Kaika and Erik Swyngedouw, ‘Cities, Nature, and the Political Imaginary’, Architectural Design 82 (2012), 22–27. The authors describe urban nature as ‘a process of continuous de-territorialisation and reterritorialisation of metabolic circulatory flows’.

‘To obtain compensation for the fish that is eaten by birds, it is necessary to keep the water above 1m and to stay away from the pond for 14 days.’ Kwok, Mrs. Interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Lin Barn Tsuen, February 12, 2014.

















1 ‘Once in the 1970s I came across someone who had illegally crossed the border who was hiding in my store. If they were caught, the border patrols would beat them. It was quite brutal but we never said anything. Think about it, we had only just got our own papers.’ Kwok, Mrs. Interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Lin Barn Tsuen, February 12, 2014.

3 ‘There are a lot of stages to managing a fish-pond. Aerators are turned on and off at night and in the morning. During the summer, grass on the banks is cut daily and provides additional feed for the carp.’ Kwok, Mrs. Interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Lin Barn Tsuen, February 12, 2014.



‘This pond costs about $3000 a year. The outer pond that I also rent is bigger so more expensive, around $7000. We continue farming to keep the place to live’ Kwok, Mrs. Interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Lin Barn Tsuen, February 12, 2014.












5 4

5 3

‘When it is necessary to empty the ponds, you pump the water into your neighbour’s pond and then pump it back to refill it again. This allows water levels to be controlled.’ Kwok, Mrs. Interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Lin Barn Tsuen, February 12, 2014.


Oyster farming in Shenzhen Bay.

Stilt housing over a fishpond with Shenzhen in the background.


The interplay of fresh water and sea water at Deep Bay supports an abundance of species, including fish, crustaceans, and birds. Mangroves skirt the edges of the mudflats with their roots immersed in the saline water, forming protected shelters for larvae and fish fry. The trees provide a nutrient source for these animals through fallen leaves and berries and act as a natural flood barrier, creating a line of protection for the land behind. The layered ecology is zonal and transitional, moving from open water to mudflat to mangrove to marsh to fertile land. The earliest settlers replicated this zonal organisation in their cultivation practices. Oysters were grown in the bay and freshwater rice inhabited the fertile soils farther inland. As this land became occupied, others were forced into more marginal, saline conditions. In these zones, either the mudflat was reclaimed by separating it from the tidal zone and allowing fresh water to rinse through the soil until it became less salty, or the farmers planted a more robust ‘red rice’ that could be grown in brackish water. Over time, over several harvests, the soil itself became less saline, allowing white rice or other crops to be grown.  3 The successive evolution of agricultural practices that commenced as early as the tenth century

Container storage encroaches on the fish-pond landscape.

pioneered opportunistic interventions within the ecology, augmenting the natural processes towards increased productivity. The example of oyster cultivation involves a minimal tweak, reinforcing the growth cycle simply by providing a substrate on which the young larvae can grow. Other techniques altered the morphology of the landscape itself. The process of harvesting rice in brackish water led to a fortuitous by-product: the intake of estuarine water contained shrimp larvae that could be harvested later for food. Although this was initially practised on a subsistence scale, the influx of Chinese migrants over the border fleeing conflict with Japan (1937–45) and the subsequent Communist Revolution of 1949 brought specific farming knowledge that harnessed the potential for estuarine shrimp farming. They created gei wai: long tidal channels that are dredged and sluiced to control the inflow and outflow of sea water. The naturally occurring shrimp larvae are swept into the channel at high tide and are then trapped until they grow to market size. The dependency of the gei wai on the natural tide and its supply of shrimp larvae ultimately led to the industry’s downfall. Increased urbanisation as a result of both Shenzhen’s designation as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Hong Kong’s new town development programme of Yuen Long in 1978 and Tin Shui Wai in 1987 impacted the estuary in two ways. On the Hong Kong side, mud was dredged from the bay to infill fish-ponds to allow development. Simultaneously, the Shenzhen side produced increased amounts of construction waste, which was deposited into the river and sea. This unbalanced the equilibrium of the tidal system, eroding sites for oyster cultivation and over-silting the gei wais. Increased levels of


The patchwork of fish farms, tidal inlets, and abandoned stilt farm buildings evidences the shifting land uses and cultivation of the ecosystem for human sustenance.  2 Despite the continued upscaling of these agrarian parcels towards increased productivity, originally in terms of food and later towards surplus and profit, each iteration maintained a connection to the underlying estuarine ecology.

Traditionally fish-pond farming was combined with poultry farming.The droppings from the birds would feed the fish.


water pollutants, from sewage nitrates and industrial chemicals, affected shrimp growth and numbers, and as a result traditional gei wai farming became obsolete, dropping from a total of eight hundred hectares to only those preserved within the Mai Po Conservation Area, designated in 1975.  4


Enclaves and Codependency

A pre-existing typology of land use present in many local villages – the fish-pond – became more widespread in the post-war period. Fishponds represent a completely synthetic cultivation of the landscape compared with the gei wais. The system remains autonomous from the naturally occurring ecology of the tidal zone. Fish-ponds are simply holes in the ground, filled from freshwater sources, artificially stocked with baby fish (fry), and maintained through inputting food, aerating the water, and monitoring algae growth and water toxicity. The availability of bulldozers and mechanised water systems lowered initial investment costs and, coupled with a consistent and profitable yield, led to the widespread application of this typology, transforming the Deep Bay area into a vast surface of aqua-cultural production. Fish-pond farmers also often kept ducks or geese. Their nitrate-rich manure encouraged algae growth in the ponds, providing food for the fish. This exemplifies a constructed ecology: a metabolic circuit whereby the waste output from one source can be used as an input for another. This practice was curtailed after 1997 due to government crackdowns on poultry farming in the wake of the bird flu epidemic of the H5N1 virus, which resulted in eighteen people being infected and six deaths. Another emerging impact is that the landscape has become an attractor for migrating birds, which alter their flight trajectory to take advantage of the food-rich, safe haven. Whether symptomatic of larger ecological disruption

2 — These are termed anthropogenic biomes or anthromes; see Earle C. Ellis, ‘Ecologies of the Anthropocene: Global Upscaling of SocialEcological Infrastructures’, New Geographies 06: Grounding Metabolism, ed. Daniel Ibañez and Nikos Katsikism, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, 20–27.

elsewhere, which is diverting birds from their habitual routes, this development nonetheless provides the Deep Bay fish-ponds with a new environmental agency. The occurrence in the area of endangered species, such as the blackfaced spoonbill, has lent support to the political protection of the ponds, despite their inauthenticity as a ‘natural’ ecology, with advocacy groups demanding further controls and regulation of the wetland.

ISLAND ENCLAVES The emergence of this viable ecology coincided with the arrival of conflicting forces that would jeopardise its future. Imported freshwater fish from the Mainland began to lower profit margins due to increased market competition, making the ponds less lucrative compared with other means of investment. As Shenzhen opened up with the formation of the SEZ in 1978, it is highly likely that these Hong Kong border villagers initiated investment ventures, whether in factories, real estate, or even other fish-ponds, with contacts or family relationships in the Mainland, to take advantage of the lower labour and land costs. 5 As maintaining fish-ponds in Hong Kong became less economically viable, owners either abandoned their ponds or looked to sell them to real estate developers. This situation was brought to a head in the proposal for Fairview Park in 1974. At that time, there were no legislation or planning statutes in force to protect the area. Indeed, the British colonial administration had remained fairly hands-off in its planning control of the New Territories. The 1905 Block Crown Lease effectively grouped all the land in the New Territories under a single lease with the British Crown, and maintained the existing land uses as predominantly ‘rural’. Successive legislation initiated by the 1910 New Territories Ordinance, which states that ‘the Court shall have the power to recognise and enforce any Chinese custom or

3 — Richard Irving and Brian Morton, A Geography of the Mai Po Marshes, World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 1988.

4 — Lawrence W.C. Lai, Ken K.H. Lam, F.T. Lorne, and S.K. Wong, ‘Economics of Gei Wai Shrimp Culture in Hong Kong: From Commercial Aquaculture to Bird Production’, Shrimp Culture: Economics, Market, and Trade, ed. PingSun Leung and Carole Engle, Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell, 2007, 167–86.

Analysis of the development pressures within the area indicated by the number of planning applications for changes of use from agriculture to light industrial or residential uses. Often unauthorised occupation, or encouraged degradation takes place, lessening the conservation value of fish-ponds in order to promote changes of use.

2003 - Widening pond bunds

2003 - Land filling to strengthen bund 2015 - Public vehicle parking

2015 - Public vehicle parking 1999 - Container vehicle park + open storage

1999 - Container vehicle park + open storage 2015 - Container vehicle park + open storage 1999 - Container vehicle park + open storage 2015 - Proposed temporary cross-boundary shopping centre

2015 - Container trailer park 2015 - Public vehicle park 2015 - Public vehicle park

1994 - Container vehicle park + open storage

2011 - Public car park 2001 - Flea market

2000 - Container vehicle park 2014 - Wakeboarding training centre

2015 - School extension

1994 - Residential development 2001 - Open storage

2002 - Container vehicle park 2003 - Container vehicle park

1994 - Residential development

2006 - Village type development

2000 - Open storage 2014 - Open storage

1994 - Container open storage 2001 - Goods vehicle park 2013 - Container vehicle park 2010 - Public vehicle park

2003 - Container vehicle park

2003 - Light vehicle parking

2003 - Container vehicle park 2011 - Logistics center 2003 - Container vehicle park

2003 - Container vehicle park

1994 - Residential development

2001 - 5-storey container vehicle park 1991 - Residential development 2000 - Lorry/car/tractor parking

2008 - Vehicle sales centre

1997 - Container storage

1997 - Container vehicle park

2008 - Comprehensive development

2002 - Open storage

1999 - Open storage loading/unloading 1993 - Residential development

2002 - Car park 2008 - Residential development

2015 - Household items retail shop

1995 - Residential development

2013 - Restaurant 2001 - Temporary office 2014 - Real estate agency

1994 - Residential development 2015 - Household items retail shop 1994 - Residential development

1992 - Residential development

2004 - School extension

1999 - Open storage

2015 - Residential development

1996 - Residential development

1999 - Open storage

2002 - Vehicle repair workshop 2013 - Drug rehabilitation centre

2000 - Open storage

2004 - Residential development

1993 - Residential development

2005 - Residential development

1999 - Container storage 1996 - Recreation centre 1997 - Open storage 2003 - Temporary open storage

2013 - Residential development

2008 - Residential development

2004 - Goods vehicle workshop 2004 - Open storage

Planning application area

2012 - Small house development 2002 - Residential development

2010 - Small house development 1993 - Residential development

1993 - School extension 1997 - Loading parking area

2005 - Proposed land filling 1999 - Restaurant

2015 - Kindergarten 2015 - Open storage

1993 - Residential development

1993 - Scrap metal storage 1997 - Public coach + car park 1997 - Public car park 1993 - Residential development 2001 - Track for r/c cars 1992 - Open storage 1993 - Restaurant 2005 - Goods vehicle parking 2005 - Temporary flower market 2003 - Open storage 2005 - Open storage

2002 - Residential development

1992 - Residential development

Rejected planning application

1992 - Residential development 2015 - Open storage 2007 - Open storage

2005 - Residential development

2006 - Thai buddhist temple 2004 - Warehouses & open storage

Approved planning application Pending planning application Vulnerable wetland areas



Fish-pond farmers rely on adjacent pond farmers to moderate water levels


Large-scale residential enclave development results in a loss of fish-ponds


Further residential development leads to increased vulnerability of ponds


Vulnerable ponds attract increased development pressure as a result of reduced economic and ecological value of the ponds

In effect, the current landscape is a disposition of radically different enclave conditions that are singular, introverted, and independent of each

5 — J. Smart and A. Smart, ‘Personal Connections and Divergent Economies: A Case Study of Hong Kong Investment in China’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 15 (1991), 216–33. 6 — D.J. Dwyer, ‘Land Use and Regional Planning Problems in the New Territories of Hong Kong’, Geographical Journal 152 (1986), 232–42.

IMPASSE The paradox of the wetlands is that their protected status is now stifling their evolution, incurring potentially damaging effects. As farmers no longer have financial incentives to maintain their fish-ponds, many simply abandon them. The synthetic nature of the ponds means that without upkeep and stewardship, the ponds stagnate, and eventually dry up. For some villagers and larger developers, this is a recognised tactic, known as ‘destroy now, develop later’. A degraded pond has little ecological value for wetland birds, which lessens the argument for preservation, and thereby opens up the possibility of development. Large developers who have speculatively bought up fish-ponds play a waiting game, allowing the ponds to degrade before submitting the required environmental impact assessments. 10 To complicate matters, many villagers are incensed by statutory planning as it represents the curtailing of their indigenous rights, as set out in the 1910 ordinance. These rights allow villagers to decide how their land should be used, and for each male heir to build a house on village land. Despite efforts to ameliorate this issue through the Small House Policy of 1972 and Village Expansion Areas Policy of 1982, which attempted to contain sprawl and limit development to village areas, the incentives to speculate are too seductive. The policies were set up to sustain village lifestyles rather than to encourage real estate profiteering. However, a court ruling in 1997 deemed that the sale of village houses on the open market was not against public policy, 11 thereby providing a loophole in the Small House

7 — San Tin Highway was completed between 1991 and 1993. Construction of the Lok Ma Chau Spur line commenced in January 2003 and it was officially opened on August 15, 2007. 8 — Nelson Chen, ‘Fairview Park, Yuen Long, Hong Kong’,, (accessed October 9, 2015).

9 — Chi Wai Yeung, ‘Large-Scale Private Housing Development in the Suburban Area in Hong Kong: A Case Study of Fairview Park’, Individual Workshop Report, 1984, (accessed October 9, 2015). 10 — Hong Kong Planning Department, Examination of Estimates of Expenditure 2014– 2015: Controlling Officer’s Reply, DEVB(PL)421, N.p.: Development Bureau, April 23, 2014, (accessed October 9, 2015).


Within this loose regulatory framework, Fairview Park was proposed as a suburban enclave of over 5,000 semi-detached houses for a population of over 25,000 residents. Billed as an ‘alternative to the “concrete jungle” of typically high-rise living in densely populated Hong Kong’, 8 Fairview Park was conceived as a self-contained island with supermarket, club, church, and schools. The site was surrounded by fish-ponds and was directly adjacent to the Mai Po wetland. Despite initial rejection by the planning department, the scheme was given the go-ahead by the Executive Council, based on improved environmental mitigation and the provision of public services. 9 Subsequent to this approval, Mai Po was designated as a ‘restricted area’ in 1975. This instigated further lobbying by environmental groups and further designations until 1995, when Mai Po Nature Reserve was finally listed officially as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. As such, it remains untouched and buffered by planning ordinance that places the majority of its fish-ponds under a land use restriction as ‘Conservation Area’, thereby delimiting development to only the village areas themselves.

other. Both Fairview Park and Mai Po are bounded conditions, regulated by law, with little porosity to their external environment.


customary rights affecting such land’, effectively preserved villagers’ rights to land use. 6 The population upsurge post-1949 and the pressures of real estate density refocused attention on the uncharted ground of the New Territories. With the 1964 New Territory Ordinance for new town development, infrastructure was enhanced through road widening, new highways, and railway upgrading, making the area more conducive to urbanisation. 7 However, except for the new towns, all other areas were still exempt from planning controls.



Residential enclave development can have negative effects on adjacent wetlands, particularly when pond areas are isolated


Puncturing the enclaves allows multiple access points into the isolated wetlands


Providing shared resources at the boundary repositions the edge as a connector rather than a separator


The boundary is softened further through a intermediary landscape


Strategic expansion of the enclaves allows a symbiotic relationship between pond farmers, developer, and existing enclaves

Investment in infrastructural connections across the border – the Huanggang Border Control Point in 1997 and Shenzhen Bay in 2007– exacerbated the demise of the fish-ponds as the villagers responded to the demand for port backup uses and vehicular and container storage. Even if these were undertaken illegally, without due permissions, the government proved unable to effectively monitor and prosecute culprits.

The wetland ecology is therefore at an impasse. Paradoxically, its protected status could lead to neglect and degradation, while vulnerable sites are pressurised and corroded by the everincreasing demand for, and profitability of, real estate. The critical question is, how can one maintain this landscape as a synthetic ecology, rejuvenating its economic potential, without negating its current value as a wetland? The example of Mai Po as a nature reserve protected under international codes requires management and constant investment. It would be impractical to extend this regulation throughout the

11 — Lands Department, The Purchase of a Village House in the New Territories, Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 1998.

METABOLIC CATALYST The site context describes how metabolic flows – incorporating estuarine tides, birds, villagers, land value, and political legislation – have been inscribed onto the surface of the earth. The evolution of the landscape witnessed successive models for augmenting the existing ecology before these methods were superseded by a more artificial model. Yet this synthetic ecology in turn fostered a unique habitat for migrating birds, attracted by the abundant food source from the fish-ponds. This new environmental ‘value’ conflicts with economic pressures to develop the land into real estate. As a result, the land is caught in limbo and subject to further degradation. The objective of the project is to inject a new metabolic circuit into the existing ecology to enable the system to evolve. The intent is to instate new forms of dependency between isolated enclaves of fish-ponds and real estate development. By inserting new economic drivers that will result in the fish-pond landscape being more actively managed, the incentive is to lessen stagnation and abandonment. Two strategies are proposed to catalyse new metabolic relationships. The first is an infrastructural water stitch to be placed over the fish-ponds. Through on-site interviews with pond workers, we discovered that each pond was dependent on the adjacent pond to facilitate its operation. 13 When one pond needed to be emptied, water would be pumped, with the owner’s permission, into an adjacent pond, and if water levels were low, ponds would be topped up from a neighbour’s source. These water exchanges represent a network of codependency between individual owners.

12 — Kai-fung Chum, Wetland Loss in Deep Bay in Recent Decades, M.Sc. thesis, University of Hong Kong, 2013, (accessed October 9, 2015).

13 — Mrs. Kwok, personal interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong, Lin Barn Tsuen, February 12, 2014.


The period between the construction of Fairview Park in 1976 and the Town Planning Ordinance of 1991 was most challenging, as many individuals and developers sought to initiate projects prior to official legislation coming into effect. As a result, the fish-ponds diminished by up to 29.8 % between 1973 and 2011. 12 Moreover, the contiguity of the ponds has been interrupted by development, leaving fragments or trapped parcels of land between built-up areas. The majority of developments seem to expand alongside the highway, but in some instances the development delaminates, leaving pockets of wetland as isolated islands surrounded by built fabric. These patches are more vulnerable for development as their discontiguity from the wetland diminishes their ecological value.

conservation area, as not only would it be too costly to compensate all the villagers but it would also be politically insensitive, creating deeper cleavages within Hong Kong with respect to indigenous villagers’ rights to use their land.


Policy that allows increased development. Given that a single three-storey village house in 2015 sells for approximately HK$10 million (US$1.29 million), there is heightened economic pressure to exchange fish-ponds for houses.



Water exchanges between ponds are necessary for ponds to function

Fish harvest [Drain pond]


Fish produces waste ammonia that breaks down into usable nitrates. This excess can be siphoned off for use as plant nutrients


The stitch circulates the nitrates into an aquaponics system to provide nutrients for crops before returning the filtered water to the ponds


The cooperative farming of produce augments the existing water exchanges


SZ Economy Goods

HK Economy

The additional revenue generated by the aquaponics stitch rebalances the economic viability of fish farming in the wetlands, preserving the ecology

The deployment of the stitch and the perimeter strategies enables the creation of a codependent ecology between the fish-ponds and the residential enclaves.

109 Enclaves and Codependency

Due to its synthetic nature, the fish-pond ecology often requires rebalancing. Ponds become highly concentrated with nitrates from the waste products of fish and excess feed, and the water needs to be further diluted to prevent the lack of dissolved oxygen from reaching dangerous levels for the fish. The intention is to use this excess nitraterich water for intensive farming. Essentially a hydroponic system, the idea is to create a gridded network of metal pipes that distribute and pump water from areas of high concentration to planting decks. The decks are for shallow yet high-value crops such as strawberries, tomatoes, or specialised salad leaves and herbs, or indeed whatever is demanded by the emerging market for fresh, organically grown produce. 14 Given the recent mistrust of Chinese-based produce, from peroxide chicken feet 15 to rotten chicken nuggets, 16 the market for trustworthy, certified produce is on the increase. Another modification of the infrastructure would allow water to be distributed into earth beds on the perimeter banks of the fish-ponds. This would intensify this traditional farming technique to increase productivity and allow waste organic matter to simply fall back into the water as food for the fish. The infra-stitch extends from the periphery of villages, overlapping pre-existing irrigation channels, and implants itself, on stilts, in the water of the ponds. The second strategy is to open up the boundary edge of the residential enclaves at Fairview Park and Palm Springs at strategic points. This scenario allows for low-rise real estate development on the perimeter of the fish-ponds in the vulnerable landscape trapped between the two gated communities. As argued previously, this landscape is most likely to be degraded by infilling due to its discontiguity from the rest of the fish-ponds. By puncturing the borders of Fairview Park and Palm Springs at precise points and extending the perimeter into the wetland, a new network is

14 — The Fresh Grower supplies vegetables from New Zealand at a cost of approximately HK$700 or US$90 for a box to serve three people for one week. 15 — Laura Zhou, ‘New China Food Scandal as 30,000 Tonnes of Chicken Feet Found Soaking in Hydrogen Peroxide’, South China Morning Post, August 27, 2014, (accessed October 9, 2015).

developed between the fish-ponds and the enclaves. This interface could be a site for walkways, cycle paths, and leisure and public spaces so that the wetland can be enjoyed and utilised by both communities. The developer and village pond owners would benefit from the profit derived from selling new properties on the pond perimeters. The ponds are maintained as wetland and the cost of upkeep is contributed by the management fees of the different estates.

CODEPENDENT ECOLOGY Both strategies instigate a codependent ecology between the fish-pond and real estate enclaves. The mutual benefit created by this dependency facilitates the wetland’s maintenance as an active ecological habitat for migrating birds. Rather than relying on government intervention through legislation, the future of this landscape is premised on the active involvement and participation of local stakeholders and outside investors, such as developers. By creating economic incentives for villagers to maintain their fish-ponds and allowing for minimal, targeted development, the aim is to discourage infilling or degradation in order to sustain the cohesion of the wetland ecology. Despite the extreme contrasts present in the morphology, conceptually the wetland and the residential developments are not categorised in terms of natural versus artificial, urban versus landscape, but rather as contributors to a complex ecology. 17 By considering the fish-ponds as a construction on the landscape, and thus every bit as artificial as the real estate developments, and understanding them both as regulated, bounded enclaves, the aim is to trigger mechanisms that create new synergies between these systems. The strategy augments the existing synthetic ecology, allowing it to continue to evolve productively.

16 — Danny Mok and Ng Kang-chung, ‘McDonald’s Hong Kong Pulls Chicken Nuggets over Supplies from Rotten Food Plant’, South China Morning Post, July 24, 2014, (accessed October 9, 2015).

17 — ‘… nature is not conceived as an external blueprint or template but as an integral dimension to the urban process which is itself transformed in the process to produce a hybridized and historically contingent interaction between social and bio-physical systems.’ Matthew Gandy, ‘Rethinking Urban Metabolism: Water, Space and the Modern City’, City 8, 3 (2004): 363–79.


The infra-stitch catalyses metabolic circuits between the fish-ponds and intensive agricultural production. The exchange of nutrient cycles facilitate new economic drivers bringing the fish-ponds back into use, maintaining the overall ecological value of the wetland landscape.



Continuous intake/return

Uptake from nutrient rich

Filtered return water

Periodic uptake/return

Uptake from nutrient rich

Filtered return water


ADJACENT PONDS Nutrient balanced

Nutrient rich


The strategy is to create a new interface between the residential enclave and the fish-ponds. By sacrificing some of the degraded fish-ponds to development and making the villagers part of the development cooperative, resources can be reinvested into maintaining the fish-ponds as a leisure landscape jointly shared between residents.



Additional income for fish-pond farmer


Fish-pond farmer maintains shared boundary areas



Free use of boundary facilities to existing residents




Connect to existing services

Free use of boundary facilities to existing residents

Access Connect to existing services Access


The augmentation of the existing synthetic ecology allows it to continue to evolve productively.


Enclaves and Codependency

Overview of Lok Ma Chau showing the border control points that cross the border river dividing Hong Kong and Shenzhen and the residual land known as the Lok Ma Chau Loop.

The Hong Kong–Shenzhen border is both a heightened space of control and an elastic space of exchange. This tension has given rise to specific flows of groups or individuals who utilise the differences between the two sides for their own benefit. Two groups in particular – cross-border schoolchildren and parallel traders – have appropriated this frontier zone. These specific flows have emerged as a consequence of regulations designed to control the porosity of the border. They represent loopholes: opportunistic interventions within seemingly impenetrable systems of control.

INBETWEENERS PARALLEL TRADERS Each day there are over 500,000 passenger border crossings, the majority via rail, interchanging at the Lok Ma Chau or Lo Wu checkpoints. 1 Over 60 % of these travellers originate from Hong Kong, and a proportion of this number are people who cross the border more than once a day for the purposes of informal trading. 2 One individual was reported to have crossed the border twentysix times in one day. 3 These parallel traders are exploiting a legal loophole. They buy in-demand goods in Hong Kong and sell them on the Mainland. If undertaken by individuals, this is not illegal. However, if scaled up and operated by a company, such transactions would be subject to import tax. By working the financial margins and price discrepancy of goods between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, parallel traders have found a way to forge a lucrative business.

1 — Hong Kong Planning Department, Northbound Southbound 2011: Cross-Boundary Travel Survey 2011, Hong Kong: 2011, 69. 2 — Ibid.

The demand from China comes from two sources. Firstly, the huge racketeering of ‘genuine fake’ products in China has meant that Mainlanders are sceptical about brands found in China and prefer if their imported goods originate from Hong Kong, as these are deemed to be ‘authentic’. These goods include not only luxury brands but also electronics, wine, and even nappies. The second source originates from a mistrust of food items produced in the Mainland. This is not unwarranted: the milk powder scandal of 2008, in which the toxic industrial chemical melamine was found in milk products, affected over 300,000 people and resulted in infant deaths. 4 As a result, milk powder became, and remains, a key product for parallel traders. By observing the operation of parallel traders at Sheung Shui MTR station (Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Rail system), the first stop in Hong Kong

3 — Julie Zhu, ‘Online Agents Cut Luxury Bills for Chinese Buyers’, Financial Times, February 23, 2014, last accessed April 28, 2014,

4 — Tania Branigan, ‘Chinese Figures Show Fivefold Rise in Babies Sick from Contaminated Milk’, Guardian, December 2, 2008, last accessed April 28, 2014,

‘Babies born to non-local parents will add pressure to our medical, education and other services. The policy of no delivery bookings of pregnant Mainland women whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents has borne fruit. Cases of non-local women in labour gatecrashing hospital emergency wards have come under control.’ Leung, CY. ‘2013 Policy Address - Seek Change, Maintain Stability, Serve the People with Pragmatism’ (speech, Hong Kong, January 16, 2013)





2 ‘The six-year-old rose at 5am at his home in Longhua, Shenzhen, to get ready. But despite his early start he did not reach his school in Tai Po until almost 9.30am after delays at the heavily congested Man Kam To border crossing.’ Zhao, Shirley. ‘Cross-border chaos as children face 4-hour journey to Hong Kong schools.’ South China Morning Post, September 3, 2013.

‘The HKSAR Government and the Central Government will continue to look at Hong Kong’s capacity. We aim to prevent any negative impact on the normal life of local residents caused by the strong demand of Mainland visitors in Hong Kong.’ Leung, CY. ‘CE addresses Legislative Council’ (speech, Hong Kong, October 17, 2012)

‘Babies born to non-local parents will add pressure to our medical, education and other services. The policy of no delivery bookings of pregnant Mainland women whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents has borne fruit. Cases of non-local women in labour gatecrashing hospital emergency wards have come under control.’ Leung, CY. ‘2013 Policy Address - Seek Change, Maintain Stability, Serve the People with Pragmatism’ (speech, Hong Kong, January 16, 2013)





2 ‘The six-year-old rose at 5am at his home in Longhua, Shenzhen, to get ready. But despite his early start he did not reach his school in Tai Po until almost 9.30am after delays at the heavily congested Man Kam To border crossing.’ Zhao, Shirley. ‘Cross-border chaos as children face 4-hour journey to Hong Kong schools.’ South China Morning Post, September 3, 2013.

‘The HKSAR Government and the Central Government will continue to look at Hong Kong’s capacity. We aim to prevent any negative impact on the normal life of local residents caused by the strong demand of Mainland visitors in Hong Kong.’ Leung, CY. ‘CE addresses Legislative Council’ (speech, Hong Kong, October 17, 2012)


Parallel traders at Sheung Shui station.

Selling their goods on the other side of the border in Lo Wu.

The spatial infrastructure of the train line and border control point is appropriated by these

traders, who occupy public spaces for loading and packing, as well as toilets and other hidden spaces to temporarily offload and store goods, 5 with the train itself functioning as a cargo vehicle. If such syndicates were formally undertaking export on such a scale, they would be subject to taxation and official customs procedures. However, as the system is operated through the collective acts of individuals, it is somewhat inviolable. The limited scale of each trip and exchange masks the extent of the goods and the loss of taxable income, considering the hundreds of thousands who cross each day. As a result, the traders create congestion problems at stations, in the train, and at the border checkpoints. 6 In areas close to the border on the Hong Kong side, the prices of some imported goods have become inflated and residents complain of shortages of everyday pharmaceuticals. To curb these negative effects, both governments brought in a series of policies to discourage parallel trade. In 2012, Hong Kong passengers were banned from carrying goods over thirty-two kilograms from the specific train stations of Sheung Shui, Fanling, Lok Ma Chau, and Lo Wu. In February 2013, Shenzhen allowed frequent crossers to carry only ‘essential’ items on any trip. 7 In March, Hong Kong authorities limited the

5 — He Hui Feng, ‘Slight Respite from Parallel Traders in Hong Kong May Not Last’, South China Morning Post, September 29, 2012, last accessed April 29, 2014,

7 — Stuart Lau, ‘Shenzhen Sets Limits for Frequent Hong Kong Visitors’, South China Morning Post, February 8, 2013, last accessed April 28, 2014,

6 — Amy Nip, ‘Leung to Urge Beijing to Help Stem Tide of Parallel Traders’, South China Morning Post, September 18, 2012, last accessed April 28, 2014,

8 — Jeffie Lam, ‘New Sytem Detects 150 Potential Smugglers at Border Daily’, South China Morning Post, August 1, 2013, last accessed April 28, 2014,

9 — Shirley Zhao,’Total of Cross-Border Pupils to Quadruple to 80,000 by 2017, Say Shenzhen Officials’, South China Morning Post, February 20, 2014, last accessed June 1, 2015, 10 — Queenie Lau, ‘Youth Trends in Hong Kong 2013’, Youth Hong Kong 5, 6 (2013): 48. 11 — Zhao,’Total of Cross-Border Pupils’.


after the border control point, we have ascertained that there are two principal types of traders. Individual traders stock up at the local shops in Sheung Shui, with a large number selling milk powder. Goods are packed into personal shopping trolleys and taken across the border on the MTR. On arrival at Lo Wu station, vendors simply set up shop on the floor of the public spaces to sell their goods. The other type of trader is part of a syndicate. These syndicates operate as highly organised networks that span the frontier. By watching and tailing parallel traders across the border, we have posited an idea of their working methods. Hong Kong agents arrange for a ‘distributor’ to deliver goods to Sheung Shui station from either a local shop or a warehouse. Arriving in minivans, goods are unloaded swiftly and then broken down into smaller parcels to be carried over by individuals. On arrival at Lo Wu, the items are taken to another location, around one kilometre from the border to avoid prying customs officials, where they are consolidated into larger parcels and then sold on. The demographic makeup of these goods ‘mules’ is varied; however, they are predominantly elderly men and women.

Cross-boundary school children at Lok Ma Chau border control point.


Poster warning pregnant mothers from the Mainland against crossing the border to give birth in Hong Kong.


amount of milk powder of each individual to just 1.8 kilograms; and in July 2014, checkpoints were upgraded to highlight passengers who crossed the border more than twice daily. 8 In April 2015, Beijing announced that Shenzhen residents would be able to enter Hong Kong only once a week, a tight restriction compared with the previous much more open, permeable system that allowed Shenzhen permanent residents to apply for a one-year multi-entry visa, which gave them the ability to enter the city as often as they liked. In this way, policymaking is reactive and coordinated by both governments to adjust the porosity of the border in order to curb and regulate the informal trade network.

CROSS-BORDER SCHOOLCHILDREN Another unique group of cross-border commuters are schoolchildren, who navigate the border daily from Shenzhen to attend school in Hong Kong. All of these children are Hong Kong citizens who reside in Shenzhen, with either both or one of their parents being PRC (People’s Republic of China) nationals. Without local hukou (citizen status) in Shenzhen, these children do not qualify for state education in the Mainland, yet are entitled to twelve years of free education in Hong

12 — Ming Yeung, ‘HKSAR Government Revises Cross-Border Student Choice’, China Daily Asia, August 16, 2013, last accessed April 28, 2014, 13 — Shirley Zhao, ‘Total of Cross-Border Pupils to Quadruple to 80,000 by 2017, Say Shenzhen Officials’, Education Post, February 21, 2014, last accessed April 28, 2014,

Kong. Additionally, there is a common perception that welfare services, including education, are better in Hong Kong than on the Mainland. Even schools that have been set up in the Mainland to appeal to these students, using Hong Kong textbooks, have not been popular due to their cost and the lack of Hong Kong governmental administration. 9 Consequently, the number of cross-border schoolchildren has been increasing, from just under a thousand in 1999 to over sixteen thousand in 2012–13, 10 with some predicting numbers reaching eighty thousand by 2017. 11 The uncertainty over the actual numbers makes educational planning on the Hong Kong side problematic. Immediate effects include the oversubscription of schools in districts in the New Territories adjacent to the border, such as in North District, which was unable to allocate 1,400 primary one places in 2013. 12 On the plus side, other village schools have been able to remain open as they now meet the minimum required intake of children, whereas previously they had been threatened by a government push to consolidate underused facilities. 13 The issue is whether the influx of cross-border students can be addressed by reactive policy adjustments or will require more strategic future planning. For example: in 2014, the Education Bureau redistributed three thousand cross-border places across all districts to avoid the build-up of congestion in North District. There are other implications for the frontier territory. House prices increased 44 % in Yuen Long and 50 % in North District – school catchment areas close to the border – between 2010 and 2013, compared with 31 % for Hong Kong overall, as Mainland families buy homes to











reduce cross-border commuting. 14 The border checkpoints have also been modified to include a special lane to facilitate the efficient passage of children, and new networks of school buses have been introduced to transport children to a multitude of locations.


The increase in the number of cross-border schoolchildren can also be linked to the phenomenon of PRC mothers choosing to give birth in Hong Kong rather than China. A 2001 ruling from the Court of Final Appeal granted a boy who was born in Hong Kong to two PRC parents Hong Kong citizenship with right of abode. 15 This precipitated a huge rise in the number of women crossing the border to give birth in order to take advantage of the associated benefits of Hong Kong citizenship over PRC. These include visa-free travel to 152 countries, twelve years’ free education, and provision of free health care. In 2011, over one-third of the 95,451 babies born in Hong Kong were to parents neither of whom had HK permanent residency. As a result, the Hong Kong government put in place a series of regulations to discourage this flow. First, the cost of giving birth was raised for non-residents to HK$20,000 in 2006 16 and then to HK$39,000 in 2007. 17 Mothers without a prior reservation and who were over twenty-eight weeks pregnant were simply not allowed to cross the border. 18 Poster campaigns were introduced describing the risks of rushing over to give birth without prior antenatal records, and in 2012 quotas were imposed that limited the number of Mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong to a maximum of thirty-five thousand per year. 19 Even though the majority of these births were handled by the private sector, and therefore represented a significant income stream, in 2013 a zero-quota policy was implemented to discourage Mainland

14 — Alice Woodhouse and Yimou Lee, ‘CrossBorder School Rush Stokes Hong Kong–China Tensions’, Reuters, February 6, 2014, last accessed April 28, 2014, 15 — Hong Kong Department of Justice, The Director of Immigration v Master Chong Fung Yuen, Hong Kong: April 2001, Basic law Bulletin no. 2. 16 — Mary Ann Benitez, ‘Mainland Mothers Deterred by Rise in Fees’, South China Morning Post, April 18, 2006, last accessed March 31, 2014,

parents from arranging to give birth in Hong Kong. 20 Various entrepreneurial activities sprang up alongside this shifting legislation: unlicensed hotels began to offer birth packages to Mainland mothers; 21 Mainland birth agencies were set up to facilitate a Hong Kong birth for a fee; and there have been reports of illegal trafficking of pregnant mothers, and of Hong Kong women becoming surrogates for Mainland fathers. It has taken a decade to bring this system back under control, through incremental and reactive policy changes. Although the loopholes in policy were temporary, the lasting impact is that the children born in Hong Kong to Mainland parents during this period will be entitled to a Hong Kong education. By some estimates, this could amount to 300,000 children 22 – a significant figure that would put the Hong Kong school system under pressure, particularly in the districts closest to the border.

INBETWEENER ECOLOGIES The two examples of parallel traders and crossborder students show how border dynamics have initiated emergent flows and economies, and a reordering of urban space. Each exists as an ecology that spans the border. Both groups can be seen as ‘inbetweeners’: a roving population that moves daily back and forth between the two cities, capitalising on the differences between the two sides. In the case of the children, there is also a rising number of families with mixed citizenship, for example families with at least one Mainland parent who has no right of abode in Hong Kong but where the children have Hong Kong citizenship. As ‘inbetweeners’, they negotiate the differences between their citizen rights to make

17 — Hong Kong Information Services Department, New Measures on Obstetric Services and Immigration Control Announced (with video), Hong Kong Government, January 16, 2007, last accessed March 31, 2014, http:// 18 — Ibid. 19 — Joseph Li, ‘PY Leung: Quota Cuts Loom for Mainland Mothers’, South China Morning Post, April 3, 2012, last accessed March 31, 2014,

20 — Candy Chan, ‘Sharp Drop in Mainland Moms as “Zero Quota” Policy Bites’, Standard, February 21, 2013, last accessed March 31, 2014, 21 — Meagan Fitzpatrick, ‘Baby Delivery Business Boom Fading in Hong Kong’, CBC News, April 2, 2013, last accessed April 28, 2014, 22 — Hong Kong Department of Justice, Right of Abode Issues of Children Born in Hong Kong to Mainland Parents Both of Whom Are Not Hong Kong Permanent Residents, Hong Kong: May 28, 2013, LC Paper No. CB(4)679/12-13(03).

In the absence of a transparent future policy, both governments have adopted a reactive stance to deal with parallel traders and cross-border identities, issuing successive policy changes to control and recalibrate the system. As these solutions are only ever short term, the policy framework soon becomes obsolete as the issues it is intended to deal with mutate according to the ever-changing circumstances on both sides of the border.

The uncertainty surrounding 2047 demands a strategy that isn’t a purely reactive ‘quick fix’ but can structure and anticipate future transformation. However, it has to be robust enough to withstand the possibility of either the continuation of ‘one country, two systems’ or its complete dissolution.

INCOMPLETE FORM The issues of cross-border schoolkids, parallel traders, and inbetweener citizens are pervasive across the entire border. Although they are autonomous groups, they coalesce in physical space, which intensifies at the Border Control Points (BCP) at Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu – the pedestrian crossings that connect to Hong Kong’s MTR train line. These valves become pressurised due to the sheer volume of traders, schoolkids, business people, day trippers, and tourists having to pass through the double configuration of Hong Kong’s and the PRC’s border control and customs. In the case of Lok Ma Chau BCP, this situation is spatialised through a two-storey bridge that spans the Sham Chun River. Travellers from Hong Kong take the lower deck moving north to the Mainland while travellers from the Mainland head south on the upper deck. The structure embodies the efficiency of securitised, controlled circulation. As a transition space that is part of neither Hong Kong nor the Mainland, it can be conceptualised as a Third Space. An area of land immediately adjacent to this crossing – the Lok Ma Chau Loop – can also be defined as a Third Space. The anti-flood, riverstraightening procedure of the 1990s truncated the natural meander, leaving a land parcel that was used as a place to dump the mud dredged


The problem of these inbetweener groups may be temporary, because in 2047 the fifty-year agreement maintaining the ‘one country, two systems’ policy initiated by Deng Xiaoping will expire. The impact that this will have is undisclosed by both governments, but in theory the eradication of the border will nullify parallel trade and the need for cross-border education. However, critical questions remain: Will Hong Kong citizenship still exist? Will trade become fluid, with no price or taxation differences? Will inbetweener families be granted right of abode in Hong Kong? How will Hong Kong supply housing, education, and healthcare for a new influx of population?

The thirty-two-year period from 2015 to 2047 offers a potential to rethink some of these relationships, given that the Frontier Closed Area (FCA) is gradually opening up. Could the FCA absorb and develop programmes that would ease some of the frictions associated with the inbetweener population, such as schools, healthcare, affordable housing, and trade? Given its history as a special permit zone, could it be used to test out new policies? Could it pilot spatial strategies that have the capacity to evolve over time?


choices about where they live, how they educate their children, and which healthcare system they use. A government scheme introduced in the 1980s allowed Mainlanders to be reunited with their families and relocate to Hong Kong on the condition that they give up their PRC nationality and with it their hukou (household registration). Relinquishing their hukou entails sacrificing their rights as PRC citizens: if they were rural residents, their right to land compensation; if urban residents, their right to social welfare. This Hong Kong policy has a set quota of granting citizenship to a maximum of 150 people per day, and over recent years it has averaged around 120, which amounts to over forty thousand new residents per year. The people are selected by the PRC without any intervention or screening by Hong Kong, and the wait time in 2008 was around four years. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, many have faced problems of securing employment and, according to some reports, discrimination. Additionally, some Hong Kongers resent the fact that these new residents are automatically eligible for social welfare, and they are perceived to be a burden on an already stretched public housing supply and public education system.

125 Inbetweeners

The double-decker pedestrian bridge from Hong Kong to Shenzhen.

Lok Ma Chau's natural ecology.

from the river channelling process. In 1997, the borderline itself was consolidated, effectively leaving a piece of Shenzhen land under the legal administration of Hong Kong. Its ambiguous sovereign status resulted in a decade of negotiation that only reached a resolution in 2008, with a joint agreement to cooperate and undertake a study ‘to explore the feasibility of developing the Loop on the basis of mutual benefit’. 23

tangible factors with more clearly predictable solutions. The plan is fixed – a homogeneous enclave with no scope for evolution or timebased programming.

The current proposal completed by Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong registers the strategic economic location of the site alongside its ecological sensitivity. The scheme prioritises higher education, with hi-tech research and development facilities offering the potential for twenty-nine thousand jobs. The plan follows normative models of urban design, including height gradients and limits; airflow; parcelling land into developable plots; and guidance to overall programme areas. Environmental aspects are integrated as ‘landscape features’, including the retention of some reed bed. 24 Notwithstanding the good intentions of the plan, the project does not react to the specific dynamics of the border location, including the interrelation of the overlapping ecologies present and concentrated at this node. The pressing issues of the in-betweener population and parallel traders are passed over in favour of more

23 — Legislative Council Panel on Development, Study on Land Use Planning for the Closed Area – Draft Concept Plan, Hong Kong Government, May 2008,

Our alternative approach is to play top-down, formal planning against more bottom-up, informal methods. The aim is to trigger both processes simultaneously, allowing their differences to generate urban diversity, community building, and innovation at Lok Ma Chau. As we have observed, the productive tension brought about by extreme differences can lead to exchange, mutual benefits, and entrepreneurship. The concept is to initiate informal village development together with the creation of a new university. This overlay sets up numerous paradoxes alongside the potential for cooperation. For instance, the contrast between scales of fabric, speeds of development, rates of inhabitation, and permanence and temporality can yield alliances such as shared infrastructure and programmes; interlinked public spaces; as well as economic mechanisms including rental flats, restaurants, or shops. The strategic plan harnesses these potentials and structures them within a spatial framework containing a specific set of components. Intentionally, the plan is both articulated and incomplete, morphologically distinct yet formally open-ended.

24 — ‘The Planning and Engineering Study on Development of Lok Ma Chau Loop,’ accessed July 7, 2016.

Aerial photographs from 1978, 1987, 1990 and 2006 reveal Shenzhen's urban transformation and infrastructural development across the border.


The villages that have been trapped within the FCA have been prevented from development opportunities compared to similar village counterparts in Shenzhen. These villagers could be given opportunities to develop small houses and businesses at the Lok Ma Chau Loop, kick-starting bottom-up economic development.


1 Lok Ma Chau Village

2 Liu Pok

3 San Uk Ling

4 Muk Wu

5 Muk Wu Nga Yiu

6 Chow Tin Tuen

7 Fung Wong Wu

8 Kan Tow Wai

9 Heung Yuen Wai

10 Ta Kwu Ling




6 3 2 1

11 Tong To

7 8

10 11

Time-based scenario showing interaction between village expansion areas and institution.

The first stage of the plan is to designate the existing wetland and the river edge as a protected buffer within the Loop; no construction would be permitted on this land. The concretised river wall is punctured to allow for inflow and outflow into the wetland. The channel is reshaped into shallower sections, slowing down the flow, to foster the growth of reeds. The second intention is to relocate the land rights of villages trapped within the FCA into the Loop itself. Unlike their Hong Kong and Shenzhen counterparts, these villages have not been able to invest in property, industry, or other land uses. Having been constricted by the FCA for sixty years, its opening up offers them no relief: their land will be regulated as ‘conservation land’ within the new Outline Zoning Plans. Because of this, the villagers are becoming increasingly exasperated by their trapped existence. Through reallocation of their land-use rights to the Loop, they would transfer their rights to build small houses in accordance with the Small House Policy of 1972. These properties could contain ground-floor commercial

spaces, restaurants, cafés, or shops. Accommodation could be let to students, workers, or university staff. Politically, the zone could be regulated with a permit to allow inbetweener families to live in the area, which in the long term could lead to a diminution in the number of cross-border students. This mechanism for informal growth could provide significant economic potential for indigenous villagers to compensate for the historical restrictions in their actual villages. Superimposed onto this village layer are the faculties of the university. Strategically located at the juncture of different village boundaries, these 150-metre-by-150-metre plots comprise a zone for building and an institutional land bank – an area of contained ground – that could be a garden, a forest, a pond, a wilderness, or designated however the institution decides. The building is raised off the ground, allowing the public, students, and staff to flow freely between the villages to access these courtyard landscapes.

The form of the building is contingent on the institution’s selected architect and could be composed of a series of slabs or a singular perimeter block. Other outposts associated with the university, such as research and development labs or other private knowledge exchange firms, such as pharmaceuticals, IT, or biotech, could be implanted within village structures to maximise potential interaction. In order to create further opportunities for exchange, parts of the campus are inserted within the village as shared facilities, such as the library, computer labs, study areas, a health centre, or a gym. The strategy co-opts university structures for the creation of municipal services and simultaneously co-opts villagers’ land rights to provide affordable housing and activate urban vitality. ‘Town and gown’ become mutually dependent and mutual beneficiaries. This extraction, harnessing, and deployment of border phenomena has the potential to catalyse a form of dynamic urbanism contingent on difference, contradictions, and exchange.

Lok Ma Chau, because of its loaded geographical and political ambiguity, is subject to a slow process of renegotiation and planning inertia. Yet it is a critical site within the FCA, as it is the site that it makes the most sense to develop because it has little ecological value, is under government control, and is adjacent to the border control point. Such development should take place not with a homogeneous, generic urbanism, but through an experimental, evolving ‘livingedge urbanism’ 25 that uses difference as a driver for continued cooperation.

25 — Richard Sennett, ‘Boundaries and Borders’, Living in the Endless City: The Urban Age Project, ed. Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic, London: Phaidon Press, 2011.


The strategic plan for the Loop showing the composition of parts: the university buildings; shared facilities; village expansion areas and wilding areas.




Village uses shared university facilities

Village uses shared open spaces of R&D facilities

Distributed shared campus

University faculties engages in knowledge share

Startups jointly develop marketable technologies Village uses rewilded courtyards for recreation

Housing for the students provided by the village


Village and university exchange


Future connection to existing BCP


Connect to existing BCP

Overview of the development strategy for the Loop.



View from Lo Wu in Hong Kong showing left-over meanders created by the straightening of the river and Shenzhen's high rise development.

Since its conception, Hong Kong’s border with the Mainland has evolved from a barrier allowing the British colony to turn its back on China to a highly connected interface for exchange. From a previous position of autonomy and self-reliance, Hong Kong is now completely dependent on the Mainland for essential supplies of energy and water. Other systems – waste, food, economy, and transportation – are also interwoven, furthering the integration of the two sides. In purely pragmatic terms, this seamless urban metabolism stretching across the border renders any question of Hong Kong’s dissociation from the Mainland moot. However, political and cultural differences remain, dividing opinion regarding Hong Kong’s future role come 2047 – the expiry date of the fifty-year agreement that guarantees Hong Kong’s capitalist system will remain unchanged. In the interim, the ‘one country, two systems’ policy has provided the perfect foil to increase forms of cooperation, initiating further dependency though without needing to accommodate the sticky and problematic issues of democracy or cultural identity.

INTERSTITIAL INFRASTRUCTURE Since 1997, this process has accelerated through legal accords and major infrastructural projects. In the context of this ongoing cooperation, the Frontier Closed Area (FCA) appears an archaic relic. Its dismantling is symbolic, yet the legacy of how it was conceived in spatial planning terms remains: people-flow within the zone was limited to access roads for trapped villages and police posts; electricity pylons and overhead cables were positioned for efficiency; and large water supply pipes were installed above ground. As the land is now being opened up, planners are confronted with a disjointed territory that can be described as an interstitial space that separates the two territories but allows essential infrastructure to connect the two sides.

This article focuses on the area surrounding the border control point at Lo Wu, a site that is criss-crossed with numerous forms of infrastructure, resulting in a fractured landscape. Our strategy is a device that combines architecture and infrastructure to promote a diversity of future uses. It challenges the zone – a tool that has become a major driver of urbanisation in Mainland China – to create incentivised conditions promoting entrepreneurial activities and economic partnerships. This interstitial infrastructure is tactically placed on pieces of leftover land created by the straightening of the Shenzhen River during the 1990s. These anomalies are effectively micro-versions of the neighbouring Lok Ma Chau Loop that exist in an ambiguous




HK 2

1 ‘After the completion of the first three stages of the training of Shenzhen River, a total of nine pieces of land, including the Lok Ma Chau Loop area, has fallen into each other’s administrative region. Apart from confirming the land use for the Lok Ma Chau Loop area, the Joint Task Force also discussed the use of the remaining eight pieces of cross-boundary land and agreed to develop them into greening spots, ecological park and artificial wetland.’ ‘Hong Kong-Shenzhen Joint Task Force on Boundary District Development holds third meeting.’ Hong Kong Information Services Department. Press release, April 27, 2009.

2 ‘Channelization considers flooding problems only from an engineering perspective and fails to take account of the wildlife value of a stream or river and its scenic setting. Channelization not only destroys the stream itself but impacts the land around it and the water into which it drains.’ Green Lantau Association. Panel on Environmental Affairs and Panel on Planning, Lands and Works. A call to action on the protection of Hong Kong rivers and streams. CB(1) 1035/03-04(03). Hong Kong: Green Lantau Association.


‘When the Daya Bay plant was being planned in the mid-1980s, Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest, with many citing the meltdown of a nuclear reactor in the then-Soviet city of Chernobyl in April 1986 as a dangerous precedent. But in the end, the energy-hungry city became one of the plant’s largest customers.’ Law, Violet. ‘Hong Kong’s Inconvenient Truth.’ Foreign Policy, August 21, 2014.

5 4

5 4 ‘Percy Cradock, then the British ambassador to China and who was involved in the negotiations, warned Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that the British had little bargaining power because Hong Kong so heavily relied on the mainland for fresh water.’ Law, Violet. ‘Hong Kong’s Inconvenient Truth.’ Foreign Policy, August 21, 2014.

The average daily number of 658,100 cross-boundary passenger trips in 2014 as recorded in the two-week survey period, was more than 60 % higher than that of 408,200 in 2003. Of all the cross-boundary passenger trips in 2014, 91.9 % were passenger trips between Hong Kong and the Mainland and the remaining 8.1 % were between Hong Kong and Macao. Census and Statistics Department. Cross-boundary travel survey 2013/14. Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2011, 4.


The essential supply of water is piped across the border from the Mainland to Hong Kong.

Water channels and elevated transport infrastructure overlap.

FRAGMENTATION Cross-boundary infrastructure converges at the border control point at Lo Wu. The east rail line connecting central Hong Kong with Shenzhen transports over one million passengers back and forth every day and was set up in 1910. 1 Water pipe infrastructure brings over 700 million cubic metres of water a year from the Mainland to provide Hong Kong’s drinking water. 2 Electric pylons bring power from Shenzhen’s Daya Bay nuclear plant to support 11 % of Hong Kong’s energy. 3 These infrastructural lines come with their own residual landscapes – fenced-off plots or obstructed areas – that create no man’s lands

1 — Hong Kong Legislative Council, ‘Weekday Patronage of MTR Heavy Rail Network from September 1 to 27 and September 28 to October 25, 2014’, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2014.

within the territory. A concretised water channel, the River Indus, and the rail line run perpendicular to the Shenzhen River border, with no vehicular bridges until the previously demarcated edge of the FCA. The deficiency in access is exacerbated by the border control point itself being contained within a restricted line. Although the platform resides in the middle of the buffer zone, passengers can only disembark at the first station, Sheung Shui. Given the fragmentation and interruptions occurring within the landscape, it is difficult to imagine what it could become. Due to the fact that Shenzhen’s commercial district is literally a stone’s throw away and the area witnesses huge numbers of people passing through it, there is an opportunity to rethink the Lo Wu border not just as a thoroughfare but as a destination in itself. In so doing, the Shenzhen River could be re-envisioned from its current state as a polluted backwater to a potential asset for the populations of both Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The historical shift from autonomy to dependency with respect to its water supply exemplifies Hong Kong’s increasing reliance on the Mainland that became a critical factor in China’s negotiations with Britain regarding handover. The article also looks at the evolution of the zone from a treaty port to its current incarnation in Qianhai Shenzhen as a mechanism to incentivise urbanisation.

2 — Su Liu, ‘Liquid Assets IV: Hong Kong’s Water Resources Management under “One Country, Two Systems”’, Hong Kong: Civic Exchange, 2013.

3 — William Chung and Iris M.H. Yeung, ‘Attitudes of Hong Kong Residents toward the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant’, Energy Policy 62 (2013): 1172–86.


sovereign status, requiring agreements from both sides to decide how they could be developed. As the Mainland turns its attention towards largescale development projects such as Qianhai in Shenzhen, which create the possibility for Hong Kong to be effectively ‘offshored’, the FCA becomes less of a priority. Yet to ignore its potential would be a missed opportunity. The aim is to reposition Hong Kong’s role in reshaping the border area using the site at Lo Wu to demonstrate how economic cooperation can be intensified at the border itself, rather than outsourcing it to another location.

Water from Shenzhen reservoir

Analysis of the concentration of water-related infrastructure occurring at Lo Wu.

Hong Kong imports 23 % of its electricity needs from mainland China

Muk Wu No. 2 & No. 3 pumping station Hong Kong supplies excess electricity to mainland China Proposed shaling organic waste treament facility

Left over parcels of land due to river training Sheung Shui water treatment works

Western Water Route: To Ngau Tam Mei and Au Tau water treatment works

Eastern Water Route: To Plover Cove reservoir and thence to High Island reservoir or Ma On Shan and Pak Kong water treatment works

Sheung Shui slaughterhouse Sheung Shui sewage treatment works Sewers


Central Water Route: To Tai Po Tau pumping stations, and thence to Tai Po and Sha Tin water treatment works or Plover Cove reservoir

Unsewered village

Prior to the Japanese invasion during World War II, the British maintained a policy of autonomy from the Mainland in terms of basic resources. Fresh water was scarce, leading to the construction of twelve reservoirs and the protection of catchment areas. The influx of migrants following the war, together with the 1949 Communist Revolution, pressurised these resources, and the British responded by instigating a series of ingenious engineering projects, including the construction of sea-based reservoirs at Plover Cove (1968) and High Island (1978) and the mandatory implementation of saltwater flushing systems. To secure water supply during the development of these projects, the British turned to the Mainland. The Dongshen Water Supply Agreement (1960) piped water from the recently constructed Shenzhen Reservoir, built during the Great Leap Forward, to Hong Kong. At this point the agreement was designed only to secure water in times of scarcity, but the growing demands of Hong Kong’s industrial growth and population surges drew increasingly larger volumes. By 1989, the Mainland was supplying 70 % of Hong Kong’s water. 4 The constant upgrading and expansion of the system was effectively a cooperative project involving joint investment from Hong Kong in the form of prepaid water orders. Shenzhen’s own industrial development and regional

RIVER DYNAMICS The urban development of Shenzhen in the 1980s contributed to increased surface water and discharge to the Shenzhen River, making it vulnerable to flooding. At Deep Bay, sedimentation from construction waste, together with the fact that the river is tidal up to Lo Wu, resulted in low flow rates. To prevent floods, the river needed to be widened and deepened to move water more effectively to the sea. As the dissolved oxygen in the river during this time was effectively zero, owing to the quantity of untreated sewage, the river was perceived as a piece of necessary infrastructure devoid of ecological value. In 1981, both sides agreed on a cooperative project to ‘train’ the river in order to move water faster, turning it into a concretised channel and consolidating the line of the border. The first three stages were completed in 2006 and cost HK$1.795 billion 5 (approximately US$230 million). In the process, several meanders were truncated, leaving nine pieces of land under ambiguous jurisdiction. Land that had once been part of Hong Kong was now administratively in Shenzhen, and vice versa. A joint task force was set up in 2008 to strategise about issues requiring cooperative boundary development, including these anomalies and the construction of a new


Borders have the capacity to change from being barriers that secure state autonomy to being porous filters for exchange. The river border was established by the British in 1898 after they leased the New Territories from the Qing Dynasty. Unlike the artificial, horizontal cleft of Boundary Street in Kowloon, which dates from 1860, the new border was a natural, meandering river dividing the two sides. The 1898 agreement also allowed the British, through a private partnership of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) and the Jardine Matheson & Co. trading company (now a multimillion-dollar conglomerate), to construct a railway from Hong Kong through to Canton (Guangzhou) via the border station of Lo Wu. Canton had been established in 1842 as a treaty port, operating as an extraterritorial outpost, allowing British citizens to be protected under British law.

manufacturing within the Pearl River Delta due to the formation of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone shifted this balance. As the demands of Shenzhen increased and manufacturing moved across the border, Hong Kong’s own needs decreased. Despite this, no changes were made to the quantities contractually agreed between the two sides. This excess, when coupled with heavy rainfall, resulted in reservoirs overflowing, causing flood damage and wastage. The current policy, enforced since 2006, allows Hong Kong to adjust the flow of water based on seasonal change but not the total volume paid for. Effectively, Hong Kong is now paying a premium to ensure its water supply. Yet this water was often below agreed safety standards, owing to increased pollution levels of nitrates, which necessitated additional treatment on the Hong Kong side. It was not until 2003, with the completion of the Dongshen renovation project, that pipelines were sealed, limiting contamination.




control point at Liantang. 6 The largest of these exceptions, at Lok Ma Chau, was designated for development, but the other eight were deemed for ‘greening’ in accordance with the prevailing concept that their use should be beneficial to both sides. 7 Given their small size and awkward status, the easiest position for both sides is to do nothing. However, these sites could be conceptualised as a form of extraterritorial enclave: a bounded land parcel with its own regulations and commercial incentives surrounded by a different jurisdiction. In the same way that treaty ports created advantageous economic conditions, these overlooked sites could trigger rethinking about the river as an economic driver rather than a mere discharge channel.

ZONES Interstitial Infrastructure

The treaty port was the mechanism in China that allowed foreign entities to secure the protection of their subjects through the concept of extraterritoriality and control of port tariffs. The aim was to promote and control trade, creating advantageous opportunities for foreign merchants. It also allowed foreign countries to forcibly exert their influence on China. For example, the treaties of the Americans and the French in 1844 allowed missionaries to work in China and abolished the ban on learning Chinese. 8 Over one hundred years later, in 1979, the concept of incentivised enclaves was restructured in the form of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). By devising preferential terms for foreign investment, SEZs became powerful drivers for the opening up of China’s economy and the promotion of industrialisation through manufacturing. Thirty years on, a new, evolved model of the economic enclave is being initiated: the Qianhai Shenzhen– Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone (Qianhai). Rather than promoting manufacturing, this enclave is designed to pilot the transformation of Shenzhen

into a new service-sector economy. The intention is to fast-forward the process of postindustrialisation to a third-sector economy so it takes a decade rather than the century required in many Western economies. Shifting economic markets, global competition, and decentralisation decimated the urban centres of Manchester and Detroit in the post-war period, leaving them vacant, devoid of economic activity, and weighed down with the now-defunct residual built fabric of their industrial past. It has taken Manchester over fifty years to incrementally redevelop through piecemeal regeneration, rebranding, and public-private development models. Detroit has not been so successful, and is still beset by the evidence of its industrial decline. The intention is for Shenzhen to skip the demise and structure its succession into a service-sector economy as efficiently and effectively as possible. Qianhai also provides Shenzhen with an opportunity to re-image itself. The urbanisation process of the first thirty years of the SEZ led to the creation, in city planning terms, of undesirable by-products such as urban villages. For Shenzhen’s urban planners, these aberrations of haphazard, densely populated villages in the middle of the city, made possible through a loophole of rural citizen land development rights, proved to be an obstacle to the construction of Shenzhen’s image as China’s ultra-modern international city. Although the villages were necessary to accommodate migrant factory workers and facilitate an informal economy, 9 Qianhai’s current development is predicated on attracting multinational companies and their highly educated staff. So the historical loopholes of land use and holdings are being eradicated as the land has been reclaimed from the bay and is under the sole control of the government. Even the occupants to populate this new city are proactively targeted, through the provision of inducements to specific business sectors and

4 — Su Liu, Liquid Assets IV : Hong Kong’s Water Management under ‘One Country, Two Systems’ (Hong Kong: Civic Exchange, 2013)

6 — Arup, ‘Planning and Engineering Study on Development of Lok Ma Chau Loop’, last modified July 18, 2013,

5 — S.N. Chan and Joseph H.W. Lee, ‘Impact of River Training on the Hydraulics of Shenzhen River’, Journal of Hydro-environment Research 4 (2010): 211–23.

7 — Hong Kong Information Services Department, ‘Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai Works to Start 2013’, last modified April 27, 2009,

8 — Jonathan D. Spence,The Search of Modern China, New York: Norton, 1999, 161–63. 9 — Joshua Bolchover and John Lin, Rural Urban Framework: Transforming the Chinese Countryside, Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 2014.


Prior to 1995




2017 (Anticipated)

143 Le Corbusier's Plan Obus 1929.

Rendering of the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone.

Interstitial Infrastructure

individual tax breaks to individuals with ‘overseas high-level and short-supplied talents’. 10 What differentiates Qianhai from other zones is that it co-opts Hong Kong’s regulatory systems and legal frameworks. The differences and advantages that Hong Kong has maintained over the Mainland are effectively transposed to Qianhai. This is apparent through all sectors. In finance, the setting up of mechanisms for cross-border loans and bonds allows businesses to borrow RMB (remnimbi, the yuan) from Hong Kong banks, which had already amounted to the registration in Qianhai of RMB100 billion in 2016. 11 This is one of several financial tools that have been introduced to internationalise the RMB. Through leveraging Hong Kong’s position as a global hub of trade, commerce, and capital exchange, its access to professional expertise, and its trusted legal framework, the objective is to proliferate the RMB as a worldwide currency.

market, all sheltered under the same conditions as if they were in Hong Kong. In effect, Hong Kong has been offshored. Other sector innovations include partnerships in technology, insurance, logistics, and law, allowing joint firms to offer ‘one stop cross-boundary legal advice to their customers’. 12 That’s not all: even a Hong Kong shopping mall has opened to sell much sought-after Hong Kong guaranteed goods, 13 taking advantage of the Qianhai bonded port to sell goods at a similar price to those in Hong Kong. Qianhai represents the latest evolution of the zone 14 through coalescing shipping and logistics with a central business district supplying support services and high-end residential development for 300,000 people. It is established as an experimental area to enable the PRC government to test its latest reform initiatives. Like the broader Shenzhen SEZ before it, Qianhai is a forerunner and test bed, setting in motion the model for the future evolution of the nation:

Following this model, other professional services are being lured to Qianhai through preferential inducements and access to the Mainland

‘… Qianhai is encouraged to follow international practices in areas that do not have a clearly defined policy or regulation and come

10 — Shenzhen Qianhai Authority, ‘Detailed Rules on the Interim Measures on Accreditation of Overseas High-Level and Short-Supplied Talents in Qianhai Shenzhen–Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone’, Shen Qian Hai 151 (2012).

11 — Hong Kong Information Services Department, ‘CS and Mayor of Shenzhen Co-chair Hong Kong/Shenzhen Co-operation meeting’, press release, February 29, 2016, 12 — Ibid.

13 — See chapter on Inbetweeners. 14 — Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructural Space, London: Verso, 2014.

ARCHITECTURE AS INFRASTRUCTURE The idea is to embed the zone into an infrastructural spine. The precedent of Le Corbusier’s radical plan for Algiers – the Plan Obus of 1929 – offers an example of how architecture can combine with infrastructure. A sinuous, elevated highway is implanted with housing below. Unlike his other urban projects (Plan Voison 1932, Ville Radieuse 1924), which demanded the erasure of the old city and its replacement with a new urban order, the Plan Obus allowed the old city fabric to coexist with the new. The plan enabled the population to expand into the stacked levels of residential plates underneath the thirty-storey highway. Each individual unit expressed the desires of the occupant, allowing for variation in the facade and floor plan. The combination of ‘viaduct and habitat’ 16 demonstrated how infrastructure could

15 — Shenzhen Qianhai Authority, ‘Qianhai Financial Policies: The Overall Development Plan of Qianhai Shenzhen–Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone’, Shenzhen: Shenzhen Qianhai Authority, 26, 16 — Stanislaus von Moos, ‘Urbanism and Transcultural Exchanges 1910–35: A Survey’, Le Corbusier, ed. H. Allen Brooks, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987, 227.

The strategy is to create a decentralised energy network that stretches across the border river. The energy loop would run on biogas supplied by enhancing the sewage treatment plants on either side of the border with organic waste processing plants. By combining organic food waste with sewage treatment in anaerobic digesters, the methane generated could be used to create electrical energy. Hong Kong has established a pilot anaerobic organic waste treatment facility at Kowloon Bay and is planning more plants, including one in the FCA in Sha Ling. 18 Given that both cities have limited landfill capacity 19 and that organic waste is currently occupying a large percentage of this volume – Hong Kong’s organic matter accounts for over one-third of its total waste 20 – using this excess waste as a resource makes sense. Our innovation is to link the processing plants with a cross-border infrastructural connection. This allows waste – in the form of a liquid slurry – to be exchanged to maintain constant supply to the digesters and utilises the power generated as a resource to kick-start new initiatives and businesses. The infrastructure stitches the border and takes on the guise of a Mutual Benefit Zone between the two sides. Like a thickening of a buffer zone that is neither Hong Kong nor Shenzhen, the device of the third space is deployed to create

17 — Manfredo Tafuri, ‘The City in the Work of Le Corbusier’, Le Corbusier, 209. 18 — Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, ‘Problems and Solutions: Organic Waste Treatment Facilities’, last accessed April 1, 2016,

19 — Hong Kong Environment Bureau, Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2013. 20 — Hong Kong Environment Bureau, A Food Waste & Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong 2014– 2022, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2014.


Qianhai replicates Hong Kong’s DNA and in so doing raises the possibility that Hong Kong need not exist. Conceptually, if Hong Kong’s special status can simply be re-created and redeployed, it becomes reduced to a legal form that can be separated from its physical, spatial structure. The possibility of enacting versions of Hong Kong as enclaves throughout the Mainland dilutes the original’s unique status. It becomes just one of many special types of zone that facilitate the Mainland’s future transformation and global emergence. This process strategically shifts focus away from the open question of what will happen in 2047 and the political quandary of Hong Kong SAR, because by then it simply won’t matter.

be programmed to create a single architectonic object. 17 Plan Obus is an infrastructure for cars and an armature for living units. Our proposal is an infrastructure for energy and an armature for new programmes that can utilise this power source. Rather than thirty storeys up, our elevated walkway sits just three storeys above the ground, allowing programmes to infill below and pedestrians to walk above. By combining the zone and its special status into its operation, the intent is to encourage the growth of businesses that can benefit from the advantages of both Hong Kong and Shenzhen.


up with legislations through the Special Economic Zone. Shenzhen is encouraged to come up with specific rules for implementation in areas that the nation only has regulations in principle.’ 15


deregulated conditions that can initiate new economic drivers. In effect, the aim is to bring the operational structure of Qianhai to the border itself. The same cooperative framework that promotes the service sector and internationalises the RMB could take place here. In turn, creative industries that optimise design and technology with prototyping could take root. Other sectors such as medicine, law, and insurance could also be advantageous, allowing Shenzhen citizens access to Hong Kong professionals. The regulatory mechanism that Qianhai uses to duplicate Hong Kong could instead become an architectural object that knits the border together.

Interstitial Infrastructure

This infrastructure grows from the anomalous conditions of the truncated meanders, created by the training of the river. Rather than simply using them for ‘greening’, their ambiguous status could become the starting point for the construction of the Mutual Benefit Zone. As they require agreement from both sides as to their future use, the plan activates these ignored and incongruous plots. By attaching it to the existing border control points, access to the new infrastructure is permitted to both Hong Kong and Shenzhen citizens without them having to pass fully through immigration. The elevated walkway provides access, creating linkages across drainage channels and other disjunctions in the landscape. It connects businesses, encouraging cooperative enterprises, and forms a recreational circuit that includes an aviary, pockets of natural wilding, and observation stations from which to view the migrating birds. The project is a conflation of infrastructure and deregulated zoning that allows enterprises to plug into its advantageous conditions. Like Plan Obus, the formal clarity of this single entity is contrasted with the unknown possibilities of how it will eventually be inhabited. If Qianhai has the potential to negate Hong Kong’s uniqueness by making it reproducible, this project aims to reinforce Hong Kong’s identity through the initiation of a project in its own territory on its own terms. This way, the project serves as an incubator for start-ups, technical innovation creative industries, and professional services. Rather than allowing them to be enticed out of the SAR to Qianhai, the aim is to foster these businesses in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s dependency on China has increased over the

decades to the point that complete autonomy is no longer a viable or desirable condition. However, the shift to transplant the advantages of Hong Kong into a replicable policy framework for special zones in China means that there is not much long-term potential for Hong Kong itself to compete in establishing home-grown business communities. This project attempts to rebalance the draw to the Mainland by locating a physical entity at the border itself. It is still a cooperative model, but one that seeks to engender and build truly collaborative and entrepreneurial models of exchange.

The new energy infrastructure criss-crosses the border, initiating a range of programmes that respond to local conditions and desires.




Binhe STW

Man Kam to BCP




Waste water


Food waste




The walkway traces the outline of the natural pockets creating wildlife viewpoints and incorporating attractor programmes such as an aviary.







The designation of the infrastructure as a mutual benefit zone that is neither Hong Kong nor Shenzhen can incentivise economic activity that can take advantage of the differences between the two sides.






















The conflation of infrastructure and deregulated zoning into a singular entity that knits the border creates opportunities for collaborative enterprises to flourish.


1 2








‘There is a tendency for landlords / developers to turn their agricultural land into Open Storage land. They do this by evicting tenants by increasing rent up to ten-fold, informally allowing waste to be dumped onto their plots, and allowing it to fallow before making an application for a change of land use.’


Fay Chai-Hung (Member of Voice For Land Justice). Interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Ta Kwu Ling, July 22, 2014.

3 2 1

Actual Use: Recycling Sorting

Change of

2 ‘There are a lot of garbage recycling and collection sites. These sites usually collect items such as broken electronic devices, dysfunctional machinery or heavy metals. All these materials and items would produce harmful chemical to the environment.’ Chu, Mr. (Principal of Ling Ying Public School). Interview by Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Ta Kwu Ling, Apr 2, 2014.

Zoning Plan: Agricultural Land

3 ‘Don’t think the people from Town Planning Board are stupid. They do know what the developers’ intentions are so it’s not likely that the TPB will approve their applications.’ Lam Kam-Kwai (Vice Chairman of Ta Kwi Ling Rural Committee) Interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Ta Kwu Ling, July 3, 2014.

5 ‘Many owners of the sites of industrial acivities are Mainlanders. The tall metal fences are to hide their illegal activities such as hiring illegal workers, encroachment onto government land, activities that violate enviromental protection regulations such as recycling.’

Operation Green Fence

Mr. Michael Chung (Director of Hop Lik Container Service Ltd.) Interview by Matthew Hung and Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Ta Kwu Ling, July 29, 2014.

Sorting required







4 ‘When the HK Government started stimulating the construction industry 5–6 years ago, a lot of construction companies and storage sites for construction material and equipment started to appear in the Ta Kwu Ling and Ping Che area.’ Mr. Cheung Fo Tai (Former Chairman of Ta Kwu Ling Rural Committee). Interview by Brian Wong. Personal Interview. Ta Kwu Ling, May 21, 2014.


Container storage in a valley between hillside ridges.

The pitted landscape of incongruous uses.

An aerial scan of the north-eastern New Territories between Lo Wu border control point and the construction of a new checkpoint at Liantang reveals a landscape pitted with an assorted and incongruous mix of land uses.

Underutilised in comparison with Hong Kong Island’s relentless urban efficiency, such spaces represent a dynamic capacity landscape, able to absorb shifts in land use and the local impact of fluctuations in the economy. The landscape is a sponge, adaptable to new programmes and economic uses. Such flexibility is absent within the city core due to lack of available space and heightened regulation. This article argues that these areas are key spaces within Hong Kong’s metropolitan ecology – a necessary loose space – accommodating multiple land uses to facilitate waste processing, industrial activities, materials storage, and holding yards for goods being exchanged across the border. As future planning policy for the New Territories aims to impose stricter controls on land use, the question is whether these measures will be effective and

1 — Lars Lerup, Stim & Dross: Rethinking the Metropolis. Assemblage 25, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995, 93.

Currently, this area absorbs fluctuations in trade between Hong Kong and the Mainland, resulting in the build-up or removal of containers and materials from the landscape. In effect, the territory operates as a fragmented port back-up and logistical zone, necessitated by the lack of space at Hong Kong’s major cargo terminal. Planners and some inhabitants contest that the sporadic and uncontrolled occupation of greenfield sites renders them contaminated and scarred. 2 Farming villages argue that industrial occupation pollutes and ruins the natural landscape. rendering it barren for future agricultural uses. Other indigenous villages claim their land-use rights allow them to exploit the land however they see fit, that any imposition of planning is unwarranted, rendering regulation ineffective. 3 The aim of the design strategy is to negotiate between these two oppositions by triggering a simultaneous process of natural wilding with lax land-use controls. The wilding contains the spread of degradation and promotes remediation while allowing for diverse industrial occupancy. Through linking these contradictory processes, the aim is to promote a dynamic ecology in constant flux yet never able to swing from one pole – complete industrialisation – to the other – complete naturalisation.

2 — Hong Kong Planning Department, ‘Enforcement of Unauthorized Developments in the Rural New Territories’, last modified August 31, 2015,

3 — Emily Lau, ‘Territorial Dispute: Land Row Pits Government against Rural Interests’, Far Eastern Economic Review 150 (1990), 25.


Tan-coloured scars reveal land clearances, blue and grey metal roofs indicate varying scales of light industry, and containers and other ephemera occupy empty plots. These ‘holes’ appear within a verdant landscape of woodlands, mountainside, active farmland, and fields. Lars Lerup describes such spaces as ‘… the dross – the ignored, undervalued, unfortunate economic residues of the metropolitan machine’. 1

administrable, and to what degree they will be advantageous to the future evolution of the Closed Area.

161 Machine part storage.

A tree nursery.

The article begins by situating the strategic approach within a discourse regarding the periphery, before turning to the specifics of the location and the relationship to the border.

It evidences an unhealed scar, a breach brought about through technological obsolescence, acting as a testament to man’s own containment upon the earth. As he states: ‘We have gone from ruin to rust, from trace to waste.’ 4 Waste for Picon induces a restless state of unease.

Scarred Landscapes

PERIPHERY The discourse of peripheral sites can be divided into two main strands: one that regards these sites as repositories of waste and the by-products of the metropolis; and the other that considers these wastelands as marginal spaces of potential. Hong Kong’s periphery contains many outcast programmes typically associated with the edge, or back-of-house, of the city: a slaughterhouse, a firing range, a prison, a sewage treatment works, and the city’s major waste landfill. Within our area of focus, land use appears divided into individual pockets. From the street view, many are surrounded by high, corrugated metal fencing preventing the onlooker from seeing the activities within. From above, different uses are revealed, such as a tree nursery, a metal recycling depot, and the stockpiling of steel bars, engineering materials, and construction machinery. Many such sites appear as clearings encircled by vegetation. Such ruptures seem to align with Antoine Picon’s definition of ‘anxious landscapes’ and the formation of rust over ruin. Ruins describe a peaceful process of human artefacts reintegrating into natural cycles, yet rust violates this process.

4 — Antoine Picon, ‘Anxious Landscapes: From the Ruin to Rust’, Grey Room 1 (Fall 2000), 64–83.

In contrast, Berger accepts these waste landscapes as part and parcel of any system of growth. Defined as ‘drosscape’, these include receptacles of actual waste, contaminated or degraded sites, and spaces of wasteful excess. In the context of North America, he argues that this waste is the by-product of the dual processes of deindustrialisation and the rapid suburbanisation of the periphery. The problem is what to do with this vast ignored territory. For others, such as Gandy, these leftover spaces encourage biodiversity and can become co-opted into the ecological infrastructure of the city. 5 Verges and abandoned land provide opportunities for pioneering species and can often provide richer habitats than planned parks or gardens. However, these sites appear stuck in limbo between one state and another, either anticipating a new beginning or standing as testament to a demised use. This uncertain status is unsettling, yet for Gandy it is overcome through considering these wastelands as spaces of experimentation that challenge our preconceived ideas of the role of nature within the urban realm. Marginal sites, like those we have observed in the New Territories, exist at the intersection between natural wilding

5 — Matthew Gandy, ‘Marginalia: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Urban Wastelands’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103 (2013), 1301–1316.


A 4-storey wall of air-conditioned container storage.

The walled-off industrial sites.

and human economy. The critical issue, and one that neither Gandy nor Berger provide answers for, is the role of design and planning in such spaces. How could spatial strategies harness the ecological benefits of wilding and still allow for continued economic uses?

In Hong Kong, the landscapes that appear as ‘waste’ are instead necessary exchange grounds that help facilitate trade across the border. Unlike more formalised government-to-government trade partnerships, this landscape provides opportunities for local economies to take root. Although existing within Hong Kong’s geographic periphery, this zone’s adjacency to Shenzhen’s urbanised core means that it operates differently to the ‘drosscape’ Berger describes. The uniqueness of Hong Kong’s periphery has developed as a result of Shenzhen’s designation as a Special Economic Zone, Hong Kong’s concurrent economic restructuring, and the planned population redistribution into the New Territories. Despite wholesale deindustrialisation that saw manufacturing jobs slashed from 42 % of employment in 1986 to just 7 % in 2006, 6 there are no abandoned factories, industrial plants, or obsolete debris. As Hong Kong deindustrialised, Shenzhen industrialised. Hong Kong factories relocated to the Mainland to take advantage of the conditions in the Special Economic Zone. Hong Kong’s employment base shifted dramatically, from production to support operations such as transport, logistics, trade, and storage, and by facilitating financial transactions and legal contracts. As a result, business sector jobs doubled between 1986 and 2006. 7

Despite the increasing centralisation of employment, the government deployed a decentralisation policy for public housing. This decanting was planned through successive public housing projects to designated new towns in peripheral areas of the New Territories that commenced in the 1970s and is still ongoing. The government is moving forward with plans for Kwu Tong North and Fanling North to accommodate an additional 174,900 people by 2031. 8 As a result, the New Territories now

6 — Paavo Monkkonen, ‘Deindustrialization and the Changing Spatial Structure of Hong Kong, China’, Interdisciplina 2 (2014), 315–37. 7 — Ibid. 8 — Hong Kong Civil Engineering and Development Department and Planning Department, North East New Territories New Development Areas Planning and Engineering Study: Investigation: Executive Summary by Ove Arup & Partners, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2014, 179–201.



As the financial sector grew, jobs were intensified within Hong Kong’s Central and Western District, putting pressure on the housing market within Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. This was capitalised on by the private sector, with any residual deindustrialised sites transformed into new housing estates. The Whampoa Garden Estate is a case in point: after the closure of the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock in 1985 – a dock that had been in existence since 1863 – it was transformed into a middle-class conglomeration of residential towers and commercial podiums in just six years. With a total population of fifty thousand, the estate bears no traces of its industrial past.

Analysis of approved and rejected planning applications in the area indicating development pressures for both small houses and industrial uses.

2012 - Burial ground

2014 - Open storage - construction equipment

2012 - 6x Small houses 2012 - 24x Cottage houses

2013 - Temporary car park

2014 - Small house

199 - 1x Small house 1991 - Plastic/ metal factory 1996 - Temp. plastic workshop 1991 - Plastic/ metal factory 2002 - 1x Small house 2013 - 15x 1x Small house 1997 - 2x Small house 2002 - 1x small house 2008 - Temp. open storage 2002 - 4x Small house 2000 - Temp. open storage 2014 - 5x Small house 2011 - 3x 1x small house 2009 - Open storage - construction 2012 - 3x 1x Small house 2012 - 1x small house 2012 -1x Small house 2014 - Open storage - construction 2010p - Open storage - construction

2002 - Open storage - construction 2013 - Open storage - construction

1998 - Open storage 2013 - Temp. concrete batching plant 2006 - Temp. animal carcass collection point 2002 - Open storage - construction 2002 - 4x Small house 2003 - Open storage - construction 2000 - 3x Small house 1992 - 1x Small house 2014p - Temp. car park

2001 - 1x Small house 2007 - 1x Small house

2002 - Sewage pumping station 2001 - 1x Small house 2007 - 2x Small house 2005 - 1x Small house

2003 - 1x Small house 2001 - 1x Small house 2006 - Sewage pumping station 1998 - Playground

1999 - 2x 1x Small house 1999 - 3x Small house 2001 - Open storage- construction1999 - 1x Small house 2012 - 2x Small house 2001 - Open storage- wrecked vehicle 1991 - 1x small house - 3x small house 1993 1x Small house 20022002 - 1x Small house 2008 - Temp. dog club and plant nursery 2006 - 1x Small house 2013 - 2x Small house 2003 - 1x Small house 2013 - 1x Small house 2013 - 1x Small house 2012 - Temp. telephone exchange 2011 - 3x Small house 1992 - Concrete products factory 2009 - Open storage - construction

1993 - Warehouse storage 2004 - Recylcing electronic appliances 1992 - Warehouse storage 2008 - Open storage - metal 2008 - Open storage - computers 1998 - Temp. open storage 1991 - Insulation processing factory 1993 - Warehouse - waste paper recycling 2004 - Vehicle repair workshop 1998 - Open storage - construction 1998 - Open storage - construction2008- Open storage - bldg materials 2013 - Temp. open storage - construction

1997 - 1x Small house

2003 - Temp. work area

2001 - Open storage - wrecked vehicles

1998 - Concrete batching plant 2004 - Ice-making plant

2001 - 3x Small house 2002 - 4x Small house 1997 - Open storage - construction 1994 - Open storage - construction 2001 - Open storage - toilets & bins 2001 - Temp. vehicle emissions testing 1998 - Environmental improvements

1996 - Temp. open storage - construction 1996 - Temp. open storage - sanitary wares 2006 - Container & machine storage 1992 - Concrete products factory 1996 - Building material workshop 2013 - Container vehicle park 2007 - 2x 1x Small house 1997 - Open storage - construction 2004 - Temp asphalt batching plant 1998 - Open storage - construction 2010 - 11x Small house 1993 - Open storage 1997 - Open storage - construction

1997 - Trailer & tractor parking

1999 - Warehouse 2000 - Steel workshop 2007 - 1x Small house 2007 - 1x Small house

1998 - Parking 1999 - 1x Small house 2011 - 6x Small houses 2006 - Temp. open storage - paper 1993 - 8x Small houses 2000 - Temp. open storage 2006 - Open storage - container 1992- Rattan workshop 1993 - 1x Small house 1997 - Welding workshop and open storage 1992 - 1x Small house 2004 - Temp. recycling 2007 Open storage & warehouse construction 2013 Laundry workshop 2002 - 4x Small house 1997 - Warehouse - sanitary ware 1991 - Private residential 2008 - Temp. Open storage 1991 - Metal workshop 1994 - Recycled papermaking factory 2012p - Workshop & open storage 2013 - Open storage - scrap 2012 - 2x 1x Small house 2001 - Vehicle compartment assembly workshop 2005 - Open storage - construction 2001 - Open storage - containers 2011 - 2x Small house 1998p - Workshop for lard boiling 2004p - Metal workshop & storage 2011 - Open storage - metalware 1993 - 1x Small house 2013 - Temp. warhouse - construction 1992 - Warehouse - tunnel boring machinery 2012 - 2x 1x Small house 2008- Open storage - construction 2011 - 2x Small house 2011 - 2x 1x Small house

2006 - Temp. motorcross course

Rejected planning application Approved planning application

2013 - 8x Small house

1998 - Warehouse - steel, plastic & machinery 2003 - Temp. open storage - generators

1999 - Open storage - containers


Majority agriculture land

Border infrastructure encourages new land uses

Changing economic incentives created by the border increases pressure on land use. Zoning attempts to regulate land use

Regulations on land use expand as FCA is removed despite the questionable effectiveness of static zoning plans

165 The NENT landfill.

A typical village house.

contains 50 % of Hong Kong’s total population, 9 as compared with just 21.6 % in 1976, 10 and is forecasted for future growth.

Scarred Landscapes

The succession of Hong Kong’s industry into a service and transactional economy, together with population expansion, has rendered the New Territories into an oddity: an amalgam of pockets of dense, mainly residential new towns set within a natural landscape peppered with transactional spaces of trade and exchange.

only became legal statutes in 1991, and so are retroactively applied in an attempt to bring haphazard land uses under control. 11 Existing uses were mapped and an idealised, broaderbrush land use was applied to the territory. Existing usages that did not fit with the new designation were allowed to remain, in the hope that when a new planning application was submitted for this site, the new zoning plan could take effect. The planning department is well aware of the contentious issues in the area and used the OZP to bring the lack of coherency in land use under control:

ECONOMIC POTENTIAL Zooming into these patches of exchange, we encounter land in different states of use. Some areas are vacant concrete plots with a few rusting steel containers, while others host highly organised and active businesses. The official Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) reveals islands of green-belt and village land in a sea of agricultural and recreational land. Towards Ping Che, the land use consolidates into a larger entity comprising industrial and open storage uses. The contradiction between actual use and the planned status is most apparent in the areas designated as either recreational or agricultural land, where there seem to be clear violations of the ordinance, with land being used for industrial or storage uses. A reason for this is that the designations of the OZP

9 — Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, 2011 Population Census: Fact Sheet for New Territories, NT_e/6.7.2012, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2012. 10 — Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Special Review: Preliminary Results of the 1981 Population, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1982.

‘This form of haphazard and disorderly open storage and rural industrial developments have caused much visual intrusion and detrimental effects on the environment. Agricultural activities in the Area comprise mainly cash crop cultivation and livestock rearing. These activities which once assumed a dominant position are now hampered by the proliferation of open storage and industrial uses.’ 12 Strategically, the aims are to consolidate any activities that degrade the landscape, and to preserve and rehabilitate agricultural land. Yet this tension has arisen primarily through a landmark court case from 1983, Attorney General vs Melhado Investment Ltd. 13 At the time, the land within the New Territories was under the

11 — Hong Kong Planning Department and Transport Department, Legislative Council Panel on Planning, Lands and Works, Planning for Open Storage and Port Back-up Uses in the Rural New Territories, CB(1)1410/06-07(05), Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2007.

12 — Hong Kong Planning Department, Approved Ping Che and Ta Kwu Ling Outline Zoning Plan: Explanatory Statement, S/NETKL/14, Hong Kong: Lands Department Survey and Mapping Office, 2010, 4. 13 — Roger Nissim, Land Administration and Practice in Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 2012, 19.

CAPACITY LANDSCAPE The land closest to the border yet outside the restrictions of the FCA was most susceptible to

14 — Danny Gittings, Introduction to the Hong Kong Basic Law, Hong Kong University Press, 2013, 268. 15 — Daniel Press, American Environmental Policy: The Failures of Compliance, Abatement and Mitigation, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015, 182.

The planning authority recognises the need for this landscape to deal with different capacities yet wants to control sporadic and untrammelled uses to prevent degradation. Its aims are to consolidate these uses into designated areas and crack down on the 125 hectares of unauthorised developments. 18 To maintain flexibility, the planning department has allowed applications for short-term operations lasting a

16 — Daniel Lyons, Murray Rice, and Robert Wachal, ‘Circuits of Scrap: Closed Loop Industrial Ecosystems and the Geography of US International Recyclable Material Flows 1995– 2005’, Geographical Journal 175, 4 (December 2009), 286–300, sourced on USA Trade Online (, accessed September 2006.

17 — Environmental Protection Department, Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs, Producer Responsibility Scheme on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, CB(1)454/1415(04), Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2015. 18 — Legislative Council Secretariat, Panel on Planning, Lands and Works, Minutes of Meeting Held on Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 2:30 pm in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building, CB(1) 1936/06-07, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 2007.


This is indicative of the change of perception that the 1983 ruling brought about: the New Territories was no longer a rural backwater, but a territory for opportunistic activities. The beneficiaries were the indigenous villagers – those able to build small houses, and lease or sell their land. 14

these non-agricultural uses. Acting as a sponge for trade between the two sides, the land is able to absorb changes in material flow from one side to the other. Fluctuations occur within logistics according to commodity price changes, supply and demand shifts, economic slowdowns or upturns, or changes in regulation. The lack of space within Hong Kong’s port at Kwai Tsing necessitates that there be capacity elsewhere to deal with this flux. In the absence of an official government site, the use of land within the New Territories facilitates the ebbs and flows in the need for open storage and port back-up uses, acting as a place to keep containers, trucks, and trailers. For example: The economic downturn of 2008 witnessed a build-up of containers in Hong Kong due to a drop in consumption and a reduction in orders globally. New policy directives, such as the Mainland’s ‘Operation Green Fence’, a ten-month-long crackdown on contaminated imported waste recyclables, resulted in increased numbers of containers and materials, as imports that did not meet the criteria of 1.5 % allowable impurity were rejected at the border. 15 Hong Kong is a key node in the international transhipments of waste that includes a third of the United States’ total plastic scrap exports (1995–2005). 16 Hong Kong alone produces seventy thousand tonnes of e-waste per year, with 90 % of this being exported. 17 As an intermediary in global trade between the rest of the world and China, Hong Kong requires such malleable spaces that can allow for adjustments and unanticipated events.


Block Crown Lease of 1905, which mainly recorded how the land was used. The case arose as the company applied for permission to use agricultural land for the storage of steel bars. Initially rejected, the company took the case to the Court of Appeal, where it was determined that the Crown Lease merely applied a description of the land use and did not have any legal bearing. In effect, this released agricultural land for a multitude of uses, including open storage, sorting yards, vehicle parking, and repair stations; anything was possible as long as it did not include permanent building structures. Interestingly, the owner of the company, Mr Lau Wong-Fat, went on to become the leader of the powerful rural committee the Heung Yee Kuk for thirty-five years, stepping down in 2015 to pass on the mantle to his son. This committee represents the interests of ‘the people of the New Territories’ and has a place in Hong Kong’s policy-making Executive Council. It has fought for indigenous villagers’ rural rights to maintain the Small House Policy and to determine land use – issues that have fundamentally transformed the landscape. When he took the position on the Executive Council, Mr Lau was forced to declare his personal landholdings, and amid controversy as to the actual number, he increased his initial declared amount from 327 to a total of 724, with 718 being in the New Territories. He also had to declare his stakeholder interest in over seventy companies.


Scenario showing how the remediation buffer expands over time, allowing industrial activities to take place before being fully remediated and left fallow to return to agricultural use.

Scarred Landscapes






Remediation buffer fixed in industrial zone


Industrial buildings permitted for strategic sectors


maximum of three years within areas that are not close to environmentally sensitive sites. However, despite the temporal limitation, it is highly unlikely that this land could seamlessly shift back into agricultural use. Although, as the vice chairman of Ta Kwu Ling’s Rural Committee points out: ‘Turning green land into concrete does not mean the land will no longer be arable or has to become storage ground. Don’t forget that poultry farms are also a type of farming activity. Besides, many greenhouses also take place on concrete grounds. Therefore, turning land into concrete could be a way to enhance the flexibility of the land to accommodate different types of farming industries.’ 19

Scarred Landscapes

The landscape is drawn into a set of contradictory and competing relations that inevitably promote its scarring and denigration. Increasingly, the pressures due to the incapacity of the port and border trade fluctuations, or to changes in land use in the speculative hope for increased future compensation, result in a shift away from soil-based agriculture. The aim of the design is to create a mechanism that supports the area’s essential activity as a ‘sponge’ – to facilitate temporal shifts in use – without setting off a process that leads to the permanent denaturing of the land itself.

HEDGEROW REMEDIATION Hedgerows – the wild vestiges surrounding agricultural fields – have been recognised as useful ecological habitats, fostering the growth of numerous plant species and supporting insect and animal life. This diversity at the edge contrasts with modern farming practices that favour singular crops, highly controlled with fertilisers and insecticides. The hedgerow separates land uses but also provides linkages to other natural habitats and continuous protected corridors of vegetation. As a buffer, it contributes to increased water retention, limits soil erosion, and can beneficially absorb some pollutants. The design strategy is to deploy the hedgerow as a planning device to remediate and limit the degrading activities of the land use on the plot. The aim is to set up temporal cycles of use – in effect, applying techniques of good farming practice to industrial sites – to allow the land to

lie fallow and recover so that it once again has the potential to be used for farming. Rather than try to use planning to control land use – which, as we have seen, has not worked – our objective is to focus regulation on the boundary of each land parcel. Each owner would commit to sacrificing a perimeter thickness of their site in exchange for looser restrictions on land use. Light industries or open storage would require relatively thin buffer zones whilst heavierpolluting uses would require thicker zoning. Every time a lease expired, the buffer would continue to enlarge, until a maximum thickness is reached. If the land was originally stipulated as agricultural or recreational use within the OZP, it would be left fallow for a number of years until it became fully remediated. If designated as industrial use, the maximum buffer would simply be maintained. By instigating dual processes of remediation and degradation, the aim is to facilitate the dynamics inherent in the landscape. Rather than stipulating what the land should be used for and for how long, the tactics enable a multitude of possibilities and future uses to take place, yet simultaneously provide a mechanism to prevent irreversible contamination of the land. As the buffers begin to coalesce and join, they will form a network of continuous habitat that cultivates biodiversity. As an alternative to leaving these edges purely to natural processes, they could also be specifically planted and planned. For instance: Willow and poplar trees uptake groundwater, diminishing the spread of contaminants through leachate. Sunflowers and other accumulating plants can absorb and hold heavy metals in their systems, which can then be harvested and the metals extracted. Roots of trees naturally promote microbe growth, providing oxygen, water, and nutrition that allow these microorganisms to break down complex organic compounds into simpler, more benign forms. 20

19 — Kam Kwai Lam, Vice Chairman of Ta Kwu Ling Rural Committee, personal interview by Brian Wong and Matthew Hung, Ta Kwu Ling, July 3, 2014. 20 — Lucinda Jackson, ‘Beyond Clean-up of Manufactured Sites: Remediation, Restoration and Renewal of Habitat’, Manufactured Sites: Rethinking the Post-Industrial Landscape, ed. Niall Kirkwood, Abingdon-on-Thames, UK: Taylor & Francis, 2003, 35–42.


Land within stipulated industrial zoning maintains a permanent remediation buffer to provide an interconnected network of natural 'hedgerow' habitat. In this scenario, the buffer expands until reaching maximum thickness and the central area is maintained for industrial activities.



Government controlled [Public land]

Government controlled [Public land]

Government controlled [Public land]

Government controlled [Private land]

Biofuel contractor controlled [Private land]




Permanent landscape buffer

Reed bed channel

Farming pollution/ biofuel

Government controlled [Private land]

Privately controlled [Private land]




Permanent landscape buffer

Reed bed channel

Farming pollution/ biofuel

Government controlled [Private land]

Privately controlled [Private land]

Biofuel contractor controlled [Private land]

Biofuel contractor controlled [Private land]




Permanent landscape buffer

Reed bed channel

Farming pollution/ biofuel

Privately controlled [Private land]


Possible transformation of the capacity landscape.


Conceptually, the design is inspired by Branzi’s notion of weak urbanisation and Maki’s concept of master form. Branzi sees the potential in agricultural systems to allow for reversibility and time-based cycles of land use. ‘This is an architecture in which the component of time returns as a variable in an imperfect and incomplete equation that adapts itself to change.’ 22 Maki’s critique of the master plan as a fixed and static entity that, once realised, becomes ‘socially obsolete’ is countered by his call to rethink the dynamic capabilities of urban planning: ‘Master form is an entity that is elastic and enduring through any change in society.’ 23

21 — Lerup, Stim & Dross, 88. 22 — Andrea Branzi, Weak and Diffuse Modernity: The World of Projects at the Beginning of the 21st Century, Skira–Berenice, 2006, 132. 23 — Masato Otaka and Fumihiko Maki, Metabolism: The Proposals for New Urbanism, Tokyo: Bijutsu Shu ̄pansha, 1960.


By inverting planning procedures to focus on the perimeter of sites, the temporal occupation and actual land use become less important. The instatement of ‘hedgerow’ habitats and bioremediation rings promotes the coexistence of two very different systems. In a certain way, the strategy enhances and intensifies the beneficial qualities of the current status of the site, for example the ability of the landscape to accommodate shifts in the trade dynamics of border exchange. As described, the current model is becoming unbalanced, with increased degradation and misuse of the land. The tactic aims to rebalance ‘the struggle of economics against nature’ 21 and harness natural wildness to enable habitats to form and remediation to take place.

The ambition is something many urbanists and architects would agree on, but implementation of such open-ended and uncontrolled land uses is too disconcerting for most planning departments. The reality on the ground is, however, not so far off. Historical, legal loopholes mixed with major political and economic change have actually resulted in a contradictory landscape pulled between agricultural and ecological preservation and erratic, economically motivated land uses. Despite planning efforts to exert control, these have proved to be ineffective due to the difficulty of enforcement and the fact that they are often brought in to post-rationalise prior events. The anticipation of major planning directives for new development areas has highlighted the need to consolidate and articulate a future plan for such zones and the insurmountable difficulties in trying to apply such a plan. The current mismatch between natural wilding and cycles of industrial use can be harnessed and intensified towards a unique model for peripheral urban sites.


The landscape has the capacity to adjust to the dymanics of trade across the border. The remediation strategy allows the land to maintain a flexibility of uses from agricultural to industrial enterprises.

Scarred Landscapes


The remediation strategy allows plots to develop at different speeds, with different uses and at varying levels of remediation.


Scarred Landscapes

Lin Ma Hang village from Robin's Nest looking towards Changling village.


The zone of Invisible Exchange extends from the eastern edge of the village of Heung Yuen Wai to the hilly watershed of the Shenzhen (Sham Chun) River. To the south, Robin’s Nest and the North East New Territories (NENT) landfill form part of the ridgeline blocking off urban development due to the terrain conditions and inaccessibility factors. As well, the FCA boundaries contributed to this effect, resulting in a few sparsely populated villages and rural settlements in the valleys on the Hong Kong side. Diverse land use in the area has included mining, agriculture, landfill, and security. Illicit trade and smuggling have also prospered along the river due to the low policing in the area and its undeveloped habitat. On the Shenzhen side, the area has a similar wooded terrain and is relatively empty of development, with the exception of the recent construction at Liantang and the highway linking Shenzhen to Yantian, built during the past fifteen years. Its hilly terrain is populated by a series of parks, reservoirs, and country parks that include the Shenzhen Fairy Lake Botanical Garden. Prior to this, the settlements of Liantang and Changling (Cheung Ling) were rural in character,

taking advantage of the valley water systems along the Shenzhen River to make irrigated agricultural pond landscapes. The farming area of Lin Ma Hang village and the adjacent village of Changling on the other side of the Shenzhen River occupy a common land. The two settlements and their farmlands were divided by the border in 1898 but maintained many cross-border practices, including land ownership and agricultural methods, as well as common ancestry and kinship connections. The farmers’ crossing points at this and twenty or more other locations along the border responded to the discontinuities created by the establishment of the border. This was especially significant after 1950, and the crossings were used to maintain both tangible and intangible cultural ties, allowing for the daily interchange of farm workers, produce, and money. The establishment of systems of exchange across the border conceptually served to bridge the divided communities and their habitats and provided some measure of continuity in natural wildlife habitats, landscape and land use, and agrarian




3 Sheung Shui

1 ‘Since the Opening Up period, a lot of informal industry sprang up in many areas around Shenzhen. Many of these were poorly regulated, particularly in peripheral areas, using the nearby water systems for effluent and dumping, contributing to air and other pollution... Some of the worst offenders were not actually large industries but small to medium-scale ones that used older industrial processes. Some are still operational today.’ Dr Ip Wai-cheung, Yuk Yin school supervisor and co-opted executive councillor, Heung Yee Kuk NT, April 2, 2014, interview with Brian Wong.

2 ‘During the Japanese Occupation and in the post-war period, due to the shortage of fuel for cooking and heating, many of the hillsides were denuded and their tree cover removed. In the areas proximate to the border, it suited the British to maintain this for security reasons.’ Dr Ip Wai-cheung (Yuk Yin school supervisor, Co-opted executive councilor), Heung Yee Kuk NT, April 2, 2014, interviewed by Brian Wong.






5 Village






‘They often saw kids from the SZ side following them on their way back to HK. As children required no permit to get across the border, kids from the SZ side would act as they were together with the HK farmers and smuggle to HK and find their relatives in LMH village or in other villages.’

‘The land is their property; they have owned this land for hundreds of years. The government have no right to decide what the land should be in the future. If the government wants to establish future development on their land, they should either buy it or trade it. Otherwise, the villages would carry out a series of actions to seal the village.’

‘Between Changling Village and Lin Ma Hang Village, there is a bridge named "Kwok Chai Kui" (International Bridge). After farming declined, villagers gradually started their own business which was to rent out their properties (land) and that is how they get wealthy. Instead of planting vegetables and crops, they described themselves as planting properties, houses, factories.’

Discussion with Dr. Lam, (Principal of Yuk Yin School) and Mr. Chu, (Principal of Ling Ying Public School), Heung Yee Kuk NT, April 2, 2014.

Hong Kong Broadband Network,

‘蓮麻坑或封村抗保育’, Yahoo News, June, 2013, (Accessed Mar. 30, 2014)

法k制日報, ‘深港邊境管理線上鮮為 人知的‘耕作口’’¨, Hong Kong China News Agency, May 15, 2012, xpcN9t (Accessed Mar. 30, 2014)

Changling village.

SYSTEMS OF EXCHANGE Both Lin Ma Hang and Changling were settled in the Qing Dynasty during the Hakka migrations to Guangdong. Their original walled village ‘wai’ 1 settlements were fortuitously sited in relation to surrounding hills, local ponds, and their adjacencies to a Feng Shui wood. In Lin Ma Hang at its pre-World War II peak, there were more than 250 farming families in the village; however, the restricted access of the FCA buffer area led to depopulation and decline in the 1960s and 1970s. The remaining thirty or so inhabitants today are aging and have relinquished most of their agrarian practices, resulting in what is in effect a ghost village. Many houses are now occupied only during festivals, when former villagers return from overseas to celebrate. However, now that the FCA has been reduced, Lin Ma Hang is no longer situated within its boundary, and this has prompted villagers to move back into the village; as an indigenous village, it is a beneficiary of the single house policy, and the overseas residents have not lost their rights to return or build further houses in the village. The sole access road,

1 — Wai (圍, Walled) and Tsuen (村, Village) were once synonymous in the region.

In the Hong Kong District Plan, Lin Ma Hang is classified as part of Sha Tau Kok District. However, operationally – for daily access and use of governmental facilities – it belongs to Ta Kwu Ling District. Accordingly, Lin Ma Hang villagers’ FCA permits unusually allow access to both Sha Tau Kok and Ta Kwu Ling government services, and permit cross-border access to Chung Ying Street and to the Yim Tin area on the Shenzhen side, as well as through the farmers’ bridge. In other words, these residents, like those of Sha Tau Kok, have unique access rights to parts of the Mainland, allowing them to establish other social, cultural, and economic mechanisms of exchange through these control points. Changling village shares the same valley as Lin Ma Hang, with the majority of its inhabitants belonging to the same clan. The 1898 border positioned on the centre line of the Shenzhen River spatially separated clan, family, and village members, but thanks to kinship, their agrarian practices and ties were largely maintained. The founding of the PRC in 1950 and the implementation of the FCA further established and formalised the border as a barrier. During this time, it was not uncommon for villagers to farm on the other side or to own land on both sides of the border, prior to government changes to land ownership and rural policy in the 1960s 2 on both sides of the border. The farming bridges were essential for this to happen. For instance, during the 1960s, there were two opening periods each day and children would often follow their parents to the Shenzhen side to farm in the morning. Adults would leave their Hong Kong identity documents at the HK checkpoint and their farming permit at the Shenzhen checkpoint, 3 allowing security guards to keep track of border crossers, and ensure their return before the day’s end. As children required no permit to cross the border, many from the Shenzhen side would act as if they were with Hong Kong farmers and then find their relatives in Lin Ma Hang village or in

2 — In discussion with Dr Yip, Yuk Yin school supervisor and co-opted executive councillor, Heung Yee Kuk NT, April 2, 2014.

3 — Ibid.


practices. As outlined below, in the period prior to urbanisation, these exchanges contributed to the sustainability and maintenance, if not resilience, of the two communities, establishing mechanisms of feedback that supported each community. The exchanges form a mechanism or prototypical condition for future ecologically focused developments and scenarios in the area that can establish feedback systems across the border.


however, passes through the reduced FCA and is therefore subject to permit control, thus limiting general access to the village.



4 5 6

Water catchment valley areas surrounding the NENT landfill site






Sheung Shui limit


183 View of Lin Ma Hang and Changling Village.

Invisible Exchanges

nearby villages. At the time, if farmers did not return before the deadline, their farming permits were revoked. Notably, these border crossings were active during the famines that occurred in the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward (1958– 61), very possibly contributing to local resilience and the maintenance or survival of the community, despite the ongoing political and social upheavals. Although increased restrictions during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) clearly impacted both cross-border activities and usage of the farming bridges, it can be argued that political shifts altered the porosity and functioning of the border in these contexts whilst the continuation of the villagers’ exchanges on both sides served as their ongoing adaptation to changing conditions and policies. In 1978, after the end of the Cultural Revolution and two years before Shenzhen became a Special Economic Zone, a formalised farmers’ crossing bridge and control point named Kwok Chai Kui (‘International Bridge’) was built to serve four former villages near Lin Ma Hang, namely Changling, Xilingxia, Lintang, and Aoxia. This is one of five farmers’ crossing points still in use along the border today. During its peak period, in the late 1970s, two to three hundred people crossed the bridge daily. Corresponding with Shenzhen’s SEZ formation, permits were formalised in 1980, allowing Mainland villager landowners aged between twenty-two and sixty to travel as far as Sheung Shui or Fanling but requiring their return by six o’clock in the evening – possibly an early sign of increased border

4 — Lin Ma Hang Village Overseas Association website, 蓮麻坑村海外鄉親聯誼會網站,

Changling village.

porosity and integration. By the late 1980s, the Hong Kong government stopped issuing permits because of the decline in farming, as many Hong Kong villagers migrated to Manchester 4 and other places. It is notable that the Shenzhen farming permits were used less and less for farming or agricultural purposes, and increasingly for the common practice of young permit holders shopping for daily necessities or delivering parallel goods back to Shenzhen, 5 a reflection of the shift from primary production to consumption in the region. Although Changling is peripheral to Shenzhen’s eastern edge, its urbanisation coincided with low-level industry that developed in the area beginning in the early 1990s, with scattered urban villages and residual legacies of industry remaining today. Since the early 2000s, most farming has ceased in this area, and instead of planting crops, local residents refer to the current land speculation in the area as the ‘planting of properties’. 6 This trend can be seen in the transformation of the Liantang area into a dormitory suburb that takes advantage of its proximity to the surrounding green spaces and parks to add value in a crowded urban context. Unsurprisingly, cross-border activities have ranged from the permissible to the illicit. Due to the area’s relative inaccessibility, together with the low level of border patrols, smuggling has been significant, often taking advantage of tunnels under the Shenzhen River to bypass security fences and patrols. For example, in 2005

5 — 香港新闻 HK China News Agency, ‘Secret behind HK-SZ BCP (Farming Transit Checkpoint)’, (深港邊境管理線上鮮為人知的’耕 作口) ,, accessed March 7, 2016.

6 — In discussion with Dr Yip, Yuk Yin school supervisor and co-opted executive councillor, Heung Yee Kuk NT, April 2, 2014.

In 2008, the Hong Kong SAR government, in anticipation of the impending FCA reduction, and under intense lobbying from green interest groups, 8 proposed the region as a conservation area, citing the presence of two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): the Lin Ma Hang stream area, which contains rare plant and fish species, 9 and the Lin Ma Hang lead mine, which contains the rare bat Miniopterus magnater. The conservation area proposal aimed to freeze all development in the existing villages and farmlands, giving control of land and land use to the government through its planning and environmental agencies. This would have impacted indigenous villagers’ rights under the Small House Policy. Subsequent protests by the Lin Ma Hang villagers in 2011 forced the government to back down, allowing for limited development and the continuation of the Small House Policy. The Lin Ma Hang Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) as ratified in 2014 10 puts development under

ANTHROPOGENIC ECOSYSTEMS According to various media sources, with the opening of the FCA, most Lin Ma Hang residents prefer village development to remain in their hands rather than be open to external development forces and non-resident migration. Therefore, a strong opposition towards government plans for land-use changes has emerged. Villagers claim the government did not adequately consult the Rural Committee in forming their plans. The village representative, Mr Yip, said that they were ‘helpless among all these planning proposals on their land. The land is part of their property; they have owned this land for hundreds of years. The government or any other organisations have no right to decide what the land should do in the future. ... Otherwise, the villagers would carry out

7 — HK Economic Times, May 21, 2005,, accessed May 23, 2014.

9 — Including Gymnosphaera podophylla and Gymnosphaera mettehiana.

8 — Refer to the Draft Lin Ma Hang Outline Zoning Plan 2008; see also

10 — HKSAR government press release, June 13, 2014,, see also HK Economic Times, December 5, 2014, accessed March 30, 2014.

11 — Lin Ma Hang OZP No. S/NE-LMH/2, June 13, 2014,, accessed March 9, 2016. 12 — Ibid.



statutory planning control, 11 with the government’s stated aims being the protection of the natural habitat, promotion of diversity, and cultural conservation. Of note is the listing of recreation and tourism before the intention to conserve the area’s rural character, an indication of a shift in priorities towards tertiary sector developments. 12 Although exceptions for villagetype development and agricultural lands were granted, rural hinterlands were instead zoned as ‘Green Belt’, SSSI, or ‘Conservation Areas’ (in relation to the traditional Feng Shui woods that have symbolic, environmental, and ecological significance for the adjoining villages). These regulations contribute to a northern green belt connecting country parks to conservation areas. For Lin Ma Hang village, this implies the village will become encircled by the green belt, which will force a different type of programmed development on the hilly areas and river catchments. In contrast to this, an integrated ecological approach would seek exchange potentials between the planned and the dynamic in this area that could take into consideration the historic cross-border dynamics.


the smuggling of an estimated 100,000 litres of olive oil using a 400-metre-long underground pipe was reputed to have earned its perpetrators up to half a million Hong Kong dollars per day. 7 In 2008, Hong Kong and Shenzhen police arrested twelve smugglers and seized HK$500 million worth of smuggled goods in the form of silver and electronic devices; the perpetrators had used tunnels or sewerage pipes to bypass detection. Another tunnel connecting the reed-bed area near Lin Ma Hang and a garage in Changling village was uncovered by police in 2013. These events reflect the border porosity at a given moment in time; the efforts to bypass restrictions or establish new mechanisms can be understood as establishing opportunities for cross-border exchange to occur, whether illicit or sanctioned.






Heat CO2

13 — In discussion, June 24, 2014, HK. 14 — ‘Lin Ma Hang “Downgrade” from CA to GB: Green Groups Fear It Will Become a Precedent,’, accessed March 9, 2016.

EMERGENT SYNTHETIC ECOLOGIES In the 1860s, lead deposits were discovered in the Lin Ma Hang area, with mining commencing in 1917. By the 1930s, the mine was at its most productive, and comprised processing plants, workshops, and housing, 16 whilst employing a workforce of five hundred. Later, under the Japanese occupation, the mine’s capacity declined, and it was looted as the war ended, with only low-level operations from 1950 until it was closed in 1962. 17 After its closure, due to the isolation of the FCA, the area became a haven for bat colonies, and consequently a Site for Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1994, transitioning from a productive landscape to a synthetic ecosystem for the bats on the one hand, and from primary production through extraction to conservation area on the other. Adjacent to the western and southern sides of Lin Ma Hang, the NENT is a large-capacity, sixtyhectare landfill site carved into the hillside. 18 In operation since 1995, the absence of adequate waste treatment facilities prior to that date necessitated its construction. Whilst nearly full, 19 its extension to the west has been agreed, the environmental impact studies have been completed, 20 and it will become operational in late 2016 or 2017. 21 The original landfill site, constructed at a time when development

15 — Heung Yee Kuk Rural Committee is the statutory advisory body that operates in the rural areas of the New Territories. It has constituency representational powers in the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Although established in 1926, it is widely recognised that the way it operates is indicative of rural power structures that predate modern planning processes. See

16 — Geographical Society of Hong Kong,, accessed March 30, 2014. 17 — Hugh Farmer, ‘Lin Ma Hang Lead Mine’, Gwulo: Old Hong Kong, December 14, 2012,, accessed March 30, 2014.


In effect, this dispute is part of an ongoing conflict between centralised government systems of land control and traditional village land-use practices. This is reflected in the tension between the Outline Zoning Plan and Statutory Planning Control government policies and the more feudal and indigenous patterns of land use regulated through the Heung Yee Kuk Rural Committees. 15 Within this context, the issue of conservation is complex and politically motivated. Conservation intentions in the region for what appear to be natural lands, or landscapes of cultural patrimony, highlight many contradictions. The region and its present-day appearance are in fact the result of centuries of man-made impacts, cultural practices, and geopolitical and policy factors. This is evident in the foliage-denuded hillsides, a partial legacy of the Japanese occupation and the subsequent shortage of cooking fuel immediately after World War II, or in the large-scale NENT landfills, which are constructed, synthetic, infrastructural landscapes. Then there is the fact that while the older settlements and their lands have been locked inside the FCA, they have in fact been cultivated and occupied since the 1650s into settlements and rural communities. These examples all

impact the evolution of land use, habitat, and human-affected ecosystems significantly. Additionally, the rise in plant, animal, and insect species diversity during the past sixty-five years due to the FCA’s restrictions on development means that these populations have ‘artificially’ prospered. As the former Lin Ma Hang lead mine bat colony shows, the anthropogenic or manmade impacts are intrinsically connected to the constitution of the natural environment and point towards new forms of ecosystem.


a series of actions to seal the village.’ 13 According to the Town Planning Board (TPB), projections for the coming ten years based on the existing indigenous rights holders suggest a growth of nine hundred houses for an estimated population in excess of two thousand people. However, green lobby groups 14 have suggested that there are already sufficient reservation areas for house development, and there is no reason to allow the village to repopulate as areas for small houses. They are also concerned about the engineering of the river for flood prevention, believing that these implementations will seriously affect the water quality of the river, and that if agrarian activities are permitted along the buffer area, chemicals from fertilisers will pollute the river.

187 Lin Ma Hang farmland.

Invisible Exchanges

pressures were not as intense, is more contentious in the present context, given recent plans to further urbanise parts of the New Territories coupled with increased community pressures on pollution. 22 The landfill complex is ramping up its employment of biosystems such as leachate bio-gas extraction, which is used to power the leachate water filtration plant. This means that the waste outputs are being used to generate electricity that is in turn used as feedback or metabolic processes, facilitating the plant’s ecosystem development. 23 With a projected lifespan of thirty years, after which the landfill will eventually be capped and sealed, NENT is a large-scale artificial landscape. Signalling the move towards more holistic solutions, both examples show that infrastructure and large-scale landscape entities can become constructive contributions towards synthetic ecosystems in the area.

Lin Ma Hang village life.

or do not privilege the natural world as a pristine, homogeneous, idealised condition, and that one may find multiple types of ecology instead, part man-made, part nature. We posit this to be a second nature – a hybrid anthropogenic-biotope that does not reside solely within artifice or nature, but spans both. The proposal is conceptually aimed at implementing new forms of cross-border ecosystems, activating a range of cross-border synthetic or second-nature landscapes. Each landscape in this zone is conceived as a separate bio-zone with a different ecological emphasis, located in the cross-border valleys around the Shenzhen River basin. They draw on the waste outputs from one side, and through phyto- and bio-remediation processes and the development of cross-border positive-feedback loops, they structure new symbiotic ecosystems. In this process, energy and metabolic pathways are enabled and lead to productive mechanisms that develop the new landscapes.

SECOND NATURE As changes wrought in the natural world at large result in an environment that has been altered to the point where the natural biotope no longer exists as a normative condition, what emerges instead is a range of conditions that are part natural and part artificial. The implication is that ecologies take on many aspects that are unnatural

18 —, accessed March 9, 2016. 19 —, accessed March 9, 2016.

For the Lin Ma Hang valley, the use of the technique Free-Air Carbon-dioxide Enrichment (FACE) is proposed, an in-situ system that releases carbon dioxide into the microclimate to accelerate plant growth. The usually circular forms of FACE consist of a series of towers that release the carbon dioxide into the air. As carbon dioxide is heavier than air, it falls onto plant

20 — Under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Department, the ‘Extension for Existing Landfills and Identification of Potential New Waste Disposal Sites’ study was completed in 2003. The NENT Landfill Extension maintains the continuity of landfill capacity. Ove Arup & Partners HK completed the feasibility and ‘EIA Study for the North East New Territories (NENT) Landfill Extension’ in 2008.

21 — Refer to 22 — The recently implemented ‘Green Wall’ policies restrict cross-border disposal of Hong Kong’s toxic wastes in the Mainland, although the illegal processing of wastes continues in the New Territories. 23 — Ibid.


Freedom Bridge farmers' crossing.

Small house policy new village construction.

Other benefits include increased ozone and oxygen production in the location, which serves to mitigate pollution emissions. As airborne pollution and smog are significant and growing problems in the Pearl River Delta region, 24 the proposal also functions as a test case for possible ways to ameliorate this urgent situation. When carefully managed with feedback mechanisms, the system may contribute to carbon sequestering or carbon offset programmes, and aid understanding of how ecosystems respond to increasing anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions and the impacts of global climate change. 25 For the purposes of the proposal, carbon dioxide would be drawn from light industry on the Shenzhen side, around Changling village, through pipes in the ground that draw from the industries’ smokestacks. This is fed to a series of carbon dioxide emitters that generate the increased plant growth and changes in the local biotope and micro-environment on the now fallow and unused farmlands. Over time, the valley would develop a changed nature that can offer different kinds of values and attract various stakeholders and users, becoming a unique attraction without disturbing the existing village rights and settlement. The integration of cultural activities within these landscapes is intended to foster environmental awareness, practices of communing, and other activities, including

recreation and leisure in new types of ecological parks. These synthetic landscapes are strategically considered as a stepping stone to catalyse new expertise in landscape ecology knowledge and management whilst fostering tertiary sector developments such as ecological leisure activities for the whole region. In terms of overall development in the Hong Kong–Shenzhen border region, there is a lack of green space amenities in this metropolitan region of over 14 million people. The cross-border park composed of a variety of different synthetic ecologies has the potential in the long term to provide a large-scale, diverse amenity for this population. Lin Ma Hang FACE can be seen as a prototype for the development of the larger cross-border park that is incrementally phased, allowing for the evolution and development of new forms of synthetic ecology. As well, the historic exchange systems and cooperation networks are proposed as ways to allow the shared space of the cross-border park to operate as a jointly managed resource.

24 — See and Of note are the crossborder contributions and the claims by NGOs such as that HK’s systems for evaluating air pollution are outdated (accessed March 12, 2016). 25 — This has been tested in various places and situations; see


foliage, where it is absorbed. The plants respond to the elevated levels of carbon dioxide by increasing their photosynthesis and reducing their transpiration, thereby promoting tree and plant growth and, as an outcome, increasing the biomass in the area. This is supplemented by nitrogen-producing plants such as legumes, beans, and peas to offset the increased uptake of nitrogen in the soil.

NENT landfill synthetic landscape.

Invisible Exchange proposal showing the Free-Air Carbon Exchange park and the urban heat exchange park adjoining NENT to the south and the Shenzhen River to the north.


The invisible exchange allows industrial waste CO2 from Changling to feed the FACE system in the former farming areas of Lin Ma Hang.



The Lin Ma Hang water catchment area is of natural and cultural value. Further disruption caused by small house construction and pollution will be mitigated by displacing the VE area to Lok Ma Chau Loop

Village expansion area moved to LMC Loop

SSSI stream disruption mitigated


Lin Ma Hang Mine Trail

Remediated Landfill Trail

The stabilised conservation area will be reconfigured as a crossboundary park providing walks within the water catchment and connected trails

Robins Nest Trail




The adjancent industrial zone generates CO2 through its industrial processes. These are freely emitted into the atmosphere


Free-Air CO2 enrichment experiment utilised by Lok Ma Chau Higher Education Campus. Strategically harnessing wasted C02 generated by the industrial zone



Degraded soil


N-rich substrate

Nitrogen fixation to alleviate nutrient bottleneck as a result of increased CO2


Industries mitigate its greenhouse gas emission by recycling gases for other uses

INDUSTRY PRODUCING EXCESSIVE CO2 Carbon dioxide produced in industrial processes feed the FACE experiment


Network of FACE pylons distribute and monitor airborne CO2 release to foster plant growth

FREE-AIR CARBON DIOXIDE ENRICHMENT (FACE) INSTALLATION Woodlands sequester carbon, increasing oxygen and species diversity


Woodland route Runoff from catchment also fertilises trees within FACE experiment rings Nitrogen fixing crops fertlise the revitalised woodland through water runoff from catchment area, reducing river flooding

Paths network links to other recreation valleys in zone and country park path network

Scenic route


FACE research institution generates new leisure activities to village farmers compensated by FACE research


Local farmers from Lin Ma Hang look after the nitrogen crops Themed paths as part of the cross-boundary park bring visitors to the village

Cultural route

The FACE system integrates with new walking trails and cross-border path networks for recreation.

Aerial view of Starling Inlet and Sha Tau Kok pier with Sha Tou Jiao behind.

The eastern section of the FCA enfolds within its boundary both Starling Inlet, a shallow tidal estuary, and the cross-border market town of Sha Tau Kok. Around Starling Inlet, a series of agricultural villages and country parks are situated. The hilly terrain forms a backdrop that limits settlement and development to water edges and river valleys. Across the border, the former village island of Sha Tau Jiao has grown into an urban settlement since the Opening Up period, becoming the container and logistics hub of Yantian. This links Shenzhen’s growing conurbation eastwards around Mirs Bay towards the leisure zones of Dameisha and Tai Pang Peninsula. The region has a complex history of contested territorial conditions, where the FCA and geopolitical changes wrought by the border have strongly impacted development.


As the only cross-border urbanised part of the border, Sha Tau Kok, an enclave contained within the FCA, is a unique spatial condition. Its complex relationship with Sha Tau Jiao occurs through the shared Chung Ying Street market, which straddles their common border. Although not large in scale, the complexity of this spatial anomaly means that Sha Tau Kok and its surroundings can be understood as a Petri dish

for many cross-border issues and problems that occur within the larger border context. The concepts of flow and regulation on the one hand, and transaction and control on the other, are fundamental to an understanding of the area’s land use, ecological balances, social patterns, and economic development. This dynamic has been in place throughout its history,


Starling Inlet sandbank.

At present, development in the region is uneven and stagnating. Changing external factors that contribute to this include increased Mainland access to consumer markets; a tightening of cross-border flows in Sha Tau Kok itself; and over-regulation of spatial development in the area. This is evident in the increasing spatial and jurisdictional separations for abutting zones, including the FCA, country, and marine parks. In 2009, highlighting the need to ‘maintain the integrity of the boundary’, 1 the government decided that Sha Tau Kok town, Chung Ying Street market, and Starling Inlet were to remain within the Frontier Closed Area to counter risks from illegal immigration and smuggling: ‘There

1 — Interview with Mr Siu, Sha Tau Kok, May 24, 2014. 2 — SL Luo, ‘Another Step Toward Opening Up’, China Daily, February 14, 2012,

are no plans and no defined policy at present to open up Chung Ying Street for general public access. The HKSAR government believes the FCA buffer zone must be retained to maintain the “one-country, two-systems” principle and for security considerations.’ 2 These measures have limited inflow of capital and controlled the flow-through of people and goods, thereby restricting development of Sha Tau Kok town and Starling Inlet. A border ecology strategy for the region considers both macro and micro exchanges and their role in the region’s socio-spatial development. It proposes and incorporates diverse flows – economic, spatial, ecological, tertiary sector activities, and sustainable development. By activating formerly linked spatial entities and adjoining territories in a new ‘alliance’, a supporting network of exchange and transaction can be created to feed back into the stagnated areas and reactivate engagement across the border.

MACRO FLOWS Broadly speaking, macro factors stemming from external events or policies have influenced large-scale changes in the region’s environment roughly every fifty years. During the Qing Dynasty, the villages in the Starling Inlet area were depopulated and then later repopulated when the ‘Coastal Migration Policy’ was repealed

3 — Patrick Hase, ‘The Alliance of Ten: Settlement and Politics in the Sha Tau Kok Area’, Down to Earth: The Territorial Bond in South China, ed. David Faure and Helen F. Siu, Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995. 4 — 深圳市史志辦公室, 香港地方志辦公室, 中英街 與沙頭角禁區,( 和平圖書有限公司, 2012), 25–31.

5 — This area includes the lands where Shenzhen is now situated and Hong Kong. 6 — Mr Siu Hon-cheung, (former Principal Shan Tsui Public School), Sha Tau Kok, May 24, 2014. Interview by Brian Wong.


whether through land reclamation and settlement, the imposition of the border, the making of cross-border markets, illegal migration, or wider governance shifts. In this context, the harnessing of social, physical, and economic factors has generated difference, transaction, and value or has led to macro policies that have isolated, stagnated, and regulated these differences. Crucially, the historical development of common economic and trading interests at one time led to the formation of village alliances, a bottom-up network of shared social and economic ties that worked as a self-governing socio-economic space, which was later disrupted by larger macro changes arising from the establishment of the border. This is a pattern of development that continues today.

199 Border panorama looking towards Sha Tou Jiao.

in 1669. This was a preferential policy aimed at attracting new immigrants that included the migrant Hakka people. Sha Tau Kok, one of many areas settled at the time, was ruled by family clans who established agriculture on the tidal flats that gave the town its name. Village Alliances

During the 1830s, the establishment of the rural village ‘Alliance of Ten’ (Sup Yuek), 3 an agreement among ten areas comprising over forty villages to have an economic, mutual defence, and kinship network, strengthened regional development around Starling Inlet. The alliance countered the absence of a marketplace, and the establishment of common cultural and commerce ties led to the 1853 founding of the Tong Wu Market on Sha Tau Jiao Island (adjoining Sha Tau Kok), 4 which became a locus of trade and governance as well as education with the establishment of missions. The common market amplified benefits to stakeholders through the development of a shared economy as a regional alliance focused around the Starling Inlet geographic area. During the colonial occupation, the Sino-British agreement of 1898, through its establishment of the New Territories, divided the region. For a short time, the border was a straight line from the south end of Starling Inlet to Shenzhen Bay, until 1899, when the British demanded the entire Xi’an County. 5 The renegotiation agreed on the Shenzhen River as the borderline, splitting the town into Sha Tau Kok and Sha Tau Jiao, and leading to the anomaly of the only urban settlement dissected by the border. Within Sha Tau Kok, the boundary line initially placed Tung Wo Market in the HK territory. This resulted in local residents taking matters into their own hands: ‘In 1899, both sides sent out their representatives to negotiate the border line

between HK and SZ, along the Ng Tung River. Tong Wo Market … was supposed to be placed within the HK territory. During the night right after the flags were planted by the authorities, the Sha Lan Ha villagers on the Chinese side secretly rearranged the flags to another river stream … (today’s Chung Ying Street) so that the market would remain on the Chinese side.’ 6 The border demarcation and the strategic significance of the marketplace as a locus of exchange was clearly understood at the time. After the division of the territory, a second market was sited in Sha Tau Kok on the HK side. Although the border here was poorly policed at the time, it nevertheless disrupted and affected trade within the village alliance. Trade was now occurring between two countries and was therefore subject to customs duties, leading to an increase in smuggling to avoid duties. The subsequent emergence of the PRC in 1949 established stronger ideological divisions between the two territories, with corresponding restrictions on human mobility and exchange. Whilst Hong Kong has long been dependent on China and Guangdong for services and staples, the nature of this interdependence was contingent on the border crossings operating then. Prior to the development of Shenzhen after 1980, Sha Tau Kok was the only other border crossing point apart from the railway at Luo Hu. It was also the only one with a cross-border marketplace, which meant that it was a key point where the PRC and the external world could transact. The FCA imposition in 1951 restricted trade by controlling the movements of people and goods into Sha Tau Kok, although the market has remained in operation in various forms since then. The FCA also prompted an exodus from Sha Tau Kok, with many Hakka people emigrating to the UK.




1 ‘The Government idea for ecological tourism is to open only the STK Pier, using shuttle bus and getting directly onto the ferry, they couldn’t even go to the toilet because that’s trespassing in the restricted area. We are not happy and want to allow tourists to shop around local shops and visit some heritage buildings. It is like a departure area, after checking in visitors will be waiting in the STK area where toilets, restaurants and duty-free shops area provided.’ Mr Siu Hon-cheung, (former Principal Sha Tau Kok Primary School), and with Mrs Tsang (cleaner), Sha Tau Kok, February 13, 2014. Interview by Brian Wong and Peter Hasdell.

2 ‘In the mid-1990s prosperity started to decline. Instead of going to STK / Chung Ying Street, Mainlanders would go directly to HK through other boundary control points. Before this time Mainlanders came over with a huge box of cash and make a deposit in the local STK bank.’ Wan Wo Fai (North District Council Elected Member), Sha Tau Kok, May 24, 2014. Interview by Brian Wong.







‘The Official Border Crossing Permit issued by SZ costs $7000+ on the Black Market. If you have connections, the discounted price is $3000+. However it is possible to get all the way over to SZ side, because the SZ Control Point Officers do not tend to check people's permits, as long as you look like a local resident or Chinese they’ll let you pass.’

‘The border history in STK is complicated ... In 1899, both sides tried to establish the border line using the Ng Tung River, they used the river banks to mark the sides and the river bed was the shared area. Residents of the Tong Wo market secretly rearranged this to the current site of Chung Ying Street. It has always been a kind of duty-free area.’

Mr Siu Hon-cheung, (former Principal Sha Tau Kok Primary School), Sha Tau Kok, May 24, 2014. Interview by Brian Wong.

Wan Wo Fai (North District Council Elected Member), Sha Tau Kok, May 24, 2014. Interview by Brian Wong.

5 ‘Previously throwing “parallel goods” across the border or from tall buildings was common, but only when the FCA was not as strictly guarded as it is today, cable systems and tunnels for petrol were used too.’ Mr Siu Hon-cheung, (former Principal Sha Tau Kok Primary School), Sha Tau Kok, February 13, 2014. Interview by Brian Wong and Peter Hasdell.


Chungming Street market.

Vacant shops.

Fifty years later, the reunification of 1997 further impacted trading, mobility, and growth in the area. As these samplings reveal, the macro transformations restructure the dynamics of the region in often profound ways, through regulation or deregulation and territorial division, separation, and isolation.

The processes of land formation by the original settlers included the systematic construction of man-made dykes and pond landscapes for rice, fish, and salt cultivation. Runoff from streams flowing down from the adjoining hills was regulated by dykes and used for cultivation and reclamation, continually expanding landholdings and territory. The dykes also established the network of paths, bridges, and infrastructures that remains today. Even the original market was situated on a dyke, which channelled flows of people and produce. Successive waves of reclamation extended the village land into the bay, a pattern linked to the post-WWII settlements by Hoklo and Tanka people (boat and fishing minorities who traditionally have fewer land rights), whose informal stilt houses along the water edges were only demolished in the last decade. The differing approaches to territory, regulation, boundary, and settlement in the region are significant for their relationships to water resources. Prior to 1898, Chung Ying Street was a small tidal stream connecting the foothills with the mudflats of Starling Inlet. The spatial conjunction of the watercourse, border, and marketplace developed the unique territorial conditions of Sha Tau Kok and its market street border with Sha Tau Jiao. During the 1920s, the street was lined with shops

REGULATORY MECHANISMS The establishment of the FCA around the southern edges of Starling Inlet in 1951 encircled the town, weakening any residual village alliance and further restricting access. The creation of a border control point for the FCA changed the nature of the Chung Ying Street market, regulating the movements of people and goods from these new boundaries. Passage into the town through special Closed Area Permits (CAPs) 7 permit access by time and a variety of territorial jurisdictions and also limit Mainlanders’ access to Sha Tau Kok. There are different categories of CAP, depending on rights and status, and these are paralleled by the Chinese special permits for residents in Sha Tau Jiao. The distinction between the residents on either side and their rights, activities, and abode is dependent on a wide range of spatial and temporal conditions that occur in their daily life



on either riverbank, which were connected by bridges, the high-tide line indicating the border between the two sides. By the 1930s, as the river was partially infilled, access could occur anywhere along the river course. The two markets, jointly policed, became the cross-border Chung Ying Street market (Chung refers to China and Ying to Britain), with the borderline running up the middle of the street. It was and still is marked by survey stones, but otherwise has no physical barriers to impede movement between the shops. Specific typologies of double-faced houses also evolved along the two sides of the market, opening onto the streets behind to facilitate access, as well as contributing to the development of a maze of alleyways that aid the movements of people and goods, and also help those wishing to evade police patrols.



From initial sandbank settlements, villages cooperate to finance land reclamation on tidal estuaries


Establishment of pond systems to capture water and cleanse salt


Mangroves burnt to fertilise the soil


Periodic flooding of fish-ponds / rice fields to leach out salt in the soil, establish water network


Dykes become infra­structure systems, path networks and markets


Chungming Street 1930s.

Parallel patrols 1950s.

patterns. It is common, for example, for people to work in Sha Tau Kok but live in Sha Tau Jiao, or vice versa, or shop for meat in Sha Tau Jiao as there is no government market for meat in Sha Tau Kok.

Although notionally similar to a duty- or tax-free zone, Chung Ying Street is actually an extraterritorial zone, one that exists – to some degree – outside the normal laws, regulations, and processes of control of both Hong Kong and China. The complexity of issues has previously meant that authorities were ill-equipped to deal with conditions outside their remit. These have

7 —, and in interview with Mr Siu Hon-cheung, (former Principal Sha Tau Kok Primary School), and with Mrs Tsang (cleaner), Sha Tau Kok, February 13, 2014.

TACTICAL NETWORKS The cross-border tactics used by local residents in their daily lives are indications of adaptive processes to different regulatory frameworks. Numerous examples exploiting these loopholes can be found. The Sha Tau Kok fire station, for instance, was until recently a place where women from Shenzhen would come in the final stages of pregnancy in order to give birth in Hong Kong, it being the only place to get an ambulance to take them to a hospital. Residents of the Shenzhen side currently rent beds for HK$2,000 a month on the Hong Kong side to gain residency or work rights. 9 In the parallel-trading world, groups of a hundred people will rush the border control point, having already decided who will be caught on each run. Other parallel traders have pretended to deliver to shops in the market whilst using the maze like a laneway to escape detection. Traders throw ‘parallel goods’ across unpoliced parts of the border fence, fabricate lifting devices from

8 — Wan Wo Fai (North District Council Elected Member), Sha Tau Kok, May 24, 2014. Interview by Brian Wong. 9 — Interview with Mrs Tsang, Sha Tau Kok, February 13, 2014.

10 — Interview with Mr Siu, Sha Tau Kok, February 13, 2014. 11 — ‘揭沙頭角私油秘管’, Sing Tao Daily, September 8, 2003,, accessed May 27, 2014.


As a key point of exchange, from 1970 until the 1980s the Chung Ying Street market functioned as one of the main links between China and the external world. At its peak, over 90 % of the shops were gold sellers, 8 this being one of the few places where access to hard currency was available. During the Opening Up period from 1980 to the early 1990s, it became the one place in China where people could purchase Western or HK-made products and desirable items such as clothes, consumer electronics, music, and videos. Only after reunification in 1997 did the market begin to decline, as the border transformed into a boundary. Today, approximately a hundred shops remain on the Hong Kong side of the 200-metrelong market, selling low-end and low-value clothing, jewellery, electronics, and milk powder formula – an indication of the declining value of the market.

included cross-border jurisdiction issues where differing legal, economic, and political aspects allowed residents to evade police in smuggling activities by crossing the border through the marketplace. Only recently has this diminished as a policing issue, as market flows and exchanges have declined, but it is also due to Shenzhen people’s easier access to Hong Kong. The principal means of control, therefore, has been the hardening of external boundaries, such as the FCA.

Existing Starling Inlet fish farms and shared territories.


Main border control point.

The border at Sha Tau Kok enfolds a complexity of adjustments between two systems that wily operators turn into economic gain, citizenship rights, or access to education. Their tactical behaviours enable, ‘within the transition zone, cultural, linguistic and social hybridity … [resulting in] … the formation of transnational, transboundary, spaces with the emergence of new hybrid regional identities’. 12 The marketplace is one type of ‘third space’, a cross-border zone variously fostering economic and illicit activities and developing social commonalities and familial and clan connections. This situation is overlaid with informal opportunities to be negotiated daily. As Simmel has written: ‘The boundary is not a spatial fact with sociological consequences, but a sociological fact that forms itself spatially.’ 13 Through the formation of tactical networks, our observation is that the modes of adaptability contribute to the formation of self-regulating social and organisational systems that can have a role to play in Sha Tau Kok’s future development.

12 — H. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, London: Routledge, 1994. 13 — G. Simmel, ‘The Sociology of Space’, Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings, trans. M. Ritter and D. Frisby, ed. D. Frisby and M. Featherstone, London: Sage, 1997, 137–70.

PLANNING STAGNATION At present, apart from the unintended speculation that is occurring through the Small House Policy in the former FCA areas, a planning stasis operates within the controlled areas. A year before the FCA opened in 2010, many overseas Indigenous Villagers returned to build their houses in the villages adjacent to Sha Tau Kok, as is their right. This led to large increases in building applications, which over the past two years have approximately equalled the total from the previous decade. Some nearby villages, including Shan Tsui, have already reached their limits of land supply and quota. Consequently, land and property values have increased by more than 100 % since 2012, indicating that the FCA has served to artificially regulate values, 14 whilst currently within Sha Tau Kok they remain stagnant. The recent growth in Mainland tourism has increased tensions between Hong Kong and the Mainland, with Hong Kongers claiming that their streets no longer belong to them. This has prompted suggestions to turn border areas into duty-free shopping neighbourhoods as a means of alleviating the problem, by keeping Mainland tourist shoppers concentrated in one place – a shopping precinct, an enclave, or a duty-free zone. With the decline in the Chung Ying market, local residents proposed diverting these economic flows to Sha Tau Kok to create a ‘border city’ 15 – a combination border control

14 — 炒起沙頭角 村屋值千萬’, Oriental Daily News, May 5, 2012,, accessed May 27, 2014. 15 — Interview with Wan Wo Fai (North District Council Elected Member), Sha Tau Kok, May 24, 2014.

16 — Planning Department, Sha Tau Kok Study on the Enhancement of the Sha Tau Kok Rural Township and Surrounding Area: Feasibility Study, June 2013, 3–4. 17 — Ibid.


high-rise residential apartments on the Shenzhen side, 10 or build petrol-smuggling tunnels. 11 The tactics extend to people smuggling. Since the 1950s, many of the waves of refugees in Hong Kong have used the formerly poorly policed Starling Inlet to swim across or be carried in boats by ‘snakeheads’, an activity that still continues, albeit in reduced form.

Starling Inlet and Mirs Bay bordered by Yantian and Sha Tau Kok to the north and west and former villages and country parks to the south and east. The FCA is shaded. Outer islands are connected by occasional ferries.


Indentity checking.

Border fence.

point/shopping area. Their proposal blurs Chung Ying Street to allow people on both sides access to a cross-border free-trade zone spanning Sha Tau Kok and Sha Tau Jiao. However, both governments rejected this, citing the complexity of operating such a zone and the potential for an increase in parallel trading activities.

18 — Interview with Wan Wo Fai (North District Council Elected Member), Sha Tau Kok, May 24, 2014. 19 — Ibid.

Presently, Starling Inlet is bounded by enclavelike conditions that limit development on its edges. As the largest water body in the FCA, its marine and freshwater ecosystem and ecology are unique, but they are not considered within the FCA planning framework. The inlet has been spatially separated from its natural aquatic context, and a normal fishing industry has been discouraged because of its historic role and the future threat of smuggling. The inlet has been separated from Mirs Bay by a floating barrier since 2010; this serves as a maritime anti-smuggling system, but its success has been limited by the lack of a 24-hour police presence. 19 Water quality has declined in Starling Inlet since 2000, 20 and the increase of hypoxia algae chlorophyll and anaerobic conditions is due to the effluent from Sha Tau Kok and the Yantian container port, as well as fish farm fish foods (anoxic sediments). Whilst the effluent has been reduced with the construction of a sewage plant in 2012, the excess food from the fish farms pollutes the seabed, creating bacteria growth that leads to periodic red tides. At present hosting around sixty fish farms and close to capacity, the zone area is about 180,000 square metres in size, and its operators are family-based, with farm size averaging 280 square metres. 21 The farms’

20 — Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department,

21 — Mariculture in Hong Kong rears fish in sheltered coastal areas in cages suspended by floating rafts and is regulated by the Marine Fish Culture Ordinance, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department,,


Official government proposals based on Arup 16 and HKSAR Planning Department studies focus instead on ecotourism connecting Sha Tau Kok to the Linkage Area – a region including outlying islands, the Plover Cove and Pat Sin Leng country parks, and the Yan Chau Tong and Tung Pang Chau marine parks. The report proposes that Sha Tau Kok become a tourist gateway to the Linkage Area. 17 Utilising the pier as an interchange, tourists on a shuttle bus would pass through the controlled area, bypassing permit requirements and connecting directly to ferries. However, they would not be permitted to shop, so no economic development will benefit Sha Tau Kok. The Rural Committee’s alternative proposal suggests allowing tourists to shop and visit heritage buildings: ‘After checking in and passing through immigration, passengers will wait in the departure area restaurants and duty-free shops area provided.’ 18 This proposal aims to channel economic benefits back to the town. Clearly, for STK, the over-regulated and disaggregated planning within the FCA hinders establishment of viable cross-border tertiary sector development. Additionally, the two main proposals outlined above do not link the macro

and micro conditions into an ecosystems approach that offers integrated sustainable development engaging environmental, economic, social, and urban development.



Village alliance and shared infrastructure and marketplace


Border disruption to alliance and trading network


FCA causes development stagnation and isolates market from context


Implementation of country parks encircles Starling Inlet. A more active role can utilise region as shared ecological resource by restablishing historic alliance

Parallel traders surveillance systems.

STRATEGY The proposed strategy in Starling Inlet links natural and man-made mechanisms with ecological connections to allow for tertiary sector development (ecotourism) as a mechanism of change that can feed back to stagnated village enclaves. The proposal is that the fish farm area be expanded and allowed to grow. As part of this growth, biofeedback systems must be put in place to maintain water quality, acting as self-regulatory environmental mechanisms that transform the fish farm area into an ecologically healthy one. This system seeks to balance out levels of production within the fish farm, increase marine diversity, and improve water quality. In turn, increased fish production will reactivate the under-capacity wet market in Sha Tau Kok. As the fish farm expands, the nurturing of small-scale yet high-income-generating tertiary

22 — Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, Research Frontiers:

These activities in turn feed back into Starling Inlet’s surrounding villages, promoting their ecological development by linking with existing high-value ecological attractions. For instance, there is the Yim Tso Ha and A Chau egretry on the southern tip of the inlet, one of the few nesting places in Hong Kong and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Other proposals include enabling water access to the country park and wetlands in Kuk Po, Fung Hang, and Luk Keng; and connecting the outer islands of Crooked Island, Crescent Island, Double Island, and Kato Island and the recreation zones Crooked Harbour, Long Harbour, and Double Haven. The longer-term intention is that the integrated approach will reactivate cross-border tourism through Sha Tau Kok, partially disaggregating the discrete planning and enclave conditions. This links existing frameworks, including the Mirs Bay Action Plan Cross Border Marine Environment Cooperation (1998), 23 and engages sustainable development in the region as a whole. The shared territory overlaps in Starling Inlet mean that the ecology needs to be balanced. The development of an ecological network approach links the management of smaller parts of the ecosystem, triggering the gradual transition from primary production to cultural production. Furthermore, the feedback and self-regulation between these parts, the need for negotiation and self-management of this shared resource, reconstitutes the former kinship alliance as a mutual resource network and planning mechanism.

23 — HKSAR Government Planning Department,


adverse environmental impacts are recognised, and the fallout from red tides and poor water quality in marine environments is known. For example, Hong Kong government agencies monitor and conduct risk assessments of red tide incidents. Methods of alleviating this problem symbiotically, through aquaculture and hydroponics (plants), are being tested. Biofilters 22 such as oyster beds that cleanse water toxins are also being considered, as are artificial reefs to encourage species diversity and wider food webs, where the waste from one species generates nutrients for another.


sector activities such as diving, fishing, health retreats, or floating villages, which all require clean water and a safe environment, is proposed. The different demands of each sector mean they will have to negotiate their shared resource, the water. The expectation is that, over time, due to the improvements to water and marine quality, the fish farms will transform to become more focused on tertiary sector activities that are able to manage the ecological impacts of the development as a time-based strategy that builds the notion of succession into the proposal.

211 Village Alliances Expansion of floating village as shared resources mixes existing and eco-tourism functions incorporating aqua remediation processes. Floating infrastructures enable new ecological processes and feedback systems.

E C O -T O U R I S M E N T E R P R I S E S

Improved water quality makes water-based activities more desirable

All eco-tourism enterprises must provide net decrease in water pollution


Increased attractions for visitors

Kinship networks develop non-fishing enterprises between fishing rafts

Social capital within kinship network



Complementary enterprises develop around pier



Local produce supplied on demand

Cross-boundary access increases visitors to Sha Tau Kok Supply of fresh fish to existing local market


Eco-tourism increase local demand for fish

Infrastructural connections to establish meshwork.

214 ZONE 6

Sequence showing scenario development and interconnection of parts.


Village Alliances


The differences that exist across borders create the impetus for exchange through trade, infrastructural networks, or migration. Yet, concurrently, they display highly articulated tools of control; digital databases of identification and goods tracking, and physical checkpoints that filter customs and immigration. The duality of borders – as charged spaces of both separation and connection – produces emergent and unique urban conditions. These result both directly and indirectly from mechanisms that manipulate differences, not towards states of stable equilibrium, but rather in ways that exploit these distinctions as key drivers of exchange. For example: currency and tax policies, trade tariffs, freedom of movement, and access to social welfare. The example of the Hong Kong–Shenzhen border demonstrates how the dynamics of exchange have produced an urban ecology that is both natural and synthetic. The forces shaping this ecology are the political dynamics between Hong Kong and the Mainland and the particular condition of the Frontier Closed Area as a residual, archaic landscape. The resultant

network of relationships links systems of economy, labour, water, waste, and energy with biological and landscape processes. By pulling these overlapping layers apart to examine more precisely how specific local conditions have been conditioned and altered by the border, we have then been able to create design strategies that harness, augment, and intensify these forces towards new objectives and scenarios. As tactics, they are designed to be open-ended and are subject to further alteration and adjustments within the dynamics of ecological change. If an ecology can be considered as the relationships and interaction between different component parts, then tactics can be considered as tools to enable and structure new relationships and new cycles of exchange. The tactics evolve from a specific context but their fundamental organisational principles are in many ways universal, and can be applied and adapted to other situations. Diagramming is used as a means to reduce and understand complex relationships and distil spatial and programmatic propositions. As tools, the diagrams are


operational and open to further articulation should a scenario become developed. However, our intention is not to focus on largescale sovereign boundaries that are burdened with geopolitical tensions, historical rifts and, in some cases, serious humanitarian issues or conflict. Indeed, the Hong Kong–Shenzhen border, despite having its own set of political tensions and cultural divisions, cannot be compared to the segregation, violence, and deeply embedded conflicts that characterise borders such as those between the USA and Mexico, North and South Korea, or Israel and Palestine. Rather, the premise of the investigation is to test how these elemental tactics could be applied to urban sites facing similarly divisive spatial situations. This is relevant given the pervasiveness of ‘micro-borders’ within the contemporary city. These micro-borders occur from fragmentation and segregation dividing rich and poor, public and private, ethnicities, religious groups, or political beliefs. Often, such divisions result in the propagation of enclaves within the city that are

controlled, gated compounds with restricted access and high degrees of security. The test cases represent smaller-scaled insertions into a variety of conditions from urban to post-industrial to abandoned sites. To demonstrate a range of possible applications, we have selected sites ranging from Detroit to China, Mumbai to Manchester. The choice of sites is based on subjective criteria arising from our knowledge of places we have worked on, visited, or lived in. Operating conceptually, the resulting vignettes do not present fully resolved spatial solutions, nor claim any expertise in the nuances and particularities of each location. Their aim is to initiate new relationships and activities that negotiate and alter the boundary conditions found at each place in order to illustrate how the tactics derived from the Hong Kong–Shenzhen context can have relevance elsewhere. These tools are described as microtactics, as each proposes how micro-borders within the city could be designed and programmed to enable productive exchange within a progressive urban realm.



The Infra-stitch is a device designed to form a cooperative alliance between different stakeholders who each hold a vestige interest in the land they are occupying yet are effectively individual actors working within an enclave condition with no sense of commonality. It links individual land plots towards a common goal by bringing together independent systems in new forms of dependence. By pooling resources, and setting up the possibility that the output of one system can be used as the input for another, new, mutually beneficial relationships can be initiated that benefit each individual member of the cooperative.


APPLICATION Sites that involve more than one landowner with a similar pattern of land use that is currently undergoing economic stagnation or is becoming obsolete. For example: abandoned or underused agricultural plots; vacated property; declining slums; or post-industrial sites. These locations are composed of individual sites that do not share resources or a collective purpose.


SHICHUANG VILLAGE, GUANGDONG PROVINCE, CHINA Villages in rural China are becoming increasingly dependent on the city. As the working population migrates to urban centres for work, the village is left vacated and reliant on remittances sent back to support the villagers’ livelihood. Agricultural production exists mainly for subsistence, and those residents who remain are mainly children and the elderly. In response, the central government has initiated a limited number of pilot projects to incentivise agricultural production. If tested in Shichuang, the Infra-stitch could kick-start a cooperative partnership between an agribusiness and the landowners themselves. The agribusiness builds the necessary infrastructure to develop a new high-yield crop that requires nurseries, greenhousing, irrigation, and post-harvesting facilities. The villagers provide their land and become cooperative shareholders involved in all stages of the process, from growing to distribution.


ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA The ger districts of Ulaanbaatar are informal settlements comprising felt tents and haphazard house constructions without access to sewage or running water. Heating – essential in the extremely cold climate – is from air-polluting, coal-burning stoves. In this example, the Infra-stitch takes the form of a wall that operates as a decentralised infrastructural system. The spine wall links the land plots, requiring the cooperation of each owner. It has a water tank to distribute fresh water to each home and a collective septic tank for waste. The wall provides a mechanism by which landowners can incrementally improve their living conditions. As they expand their homes, they can plug directly into the wall for services. Additionally, they can build extra units to rent to new migrants, providing muchneeded income. Other improvements follow, including a small-scale combined heat and power unit allowing the cooperative to share hot water, reducing the dependency on coal as a heat source.






Illegal plots

5. Cluster densifies as migrants move to take advantage of the communal infrastructure


DER Water tower

Fences create micro-borders around plot 4. Connection to infrastructure enables residents to build extension to infra-stitch

3. Existing water, sewage, garbage trucks make visits to each cluster

2. Residents build infrastructural spine wall to receive urban services Bath house

District powerplant

Illegal plots

1. Rural to urban migration leads to the formation of informal settlements



The Filter is a device for reprogramming the existing boundary between different enclaves and their exterior conditions. Typically, enclaves are walled and gated, separating themselves from their immediate context. This creates highly polarised and segregated urban communities. The increasing disparity and mistrust between neighbourhoods furthers the desire to create even more bordered spaces. The Filter interfaces the boundary of each enclave, strategically creating openings that allow residents access to shared programmes. These programmes can be operated by a third party, but each enclave contributes to the shared project by providing either space, access to infrastructure, or investment.


APPLICATION Sites that can be defined as enclaves contain forms of urban fabric distinct from their immediate context in terms of typology, property ownership, and economic make-up. Usually they are regulated to control activities, inhabitants, and accessibility. The Filter attaches to these bounded entities, creating opportunities to interact and exchange with the exterior environment. By selectively opening up the enclave and increasing micro-border porosity, the Filter creates reciprocal benefits for residents and citizens alike.


BAISHIZHOU VILLAGE, SHENZHEN, CHINA Baishizhou is an urban village that has evolved through rural citizens’ rights to develop land. As a result, it houses Shenzhen’s working poor in the form of densely packed six- or seven-storey housing blocks. This fabric is surrounded on all sides by high-end residential enclaves, each with its own settlement pattern, fenced off from the surrounding urban context. The Filter re-programmes this edge. Leisure gardens and pocket spaces push into the residential enclaves, allowing them to be accessed by urban villagers, while a market and a food street extend from the urban village into the housing estate. Several exchange nodes are established along the periphery of the urban village, incentivising selective exchange and mixing between communities.


PIMLICO, LONDON, UK Lupus Street in Pimlico represents a dividing line between the traditionally low-income housing estate of Churchill Gardens and the more well-to-do Georgian fabric of Pimlico village. The increased desirability of Churchill Gardens due to its central location means that lower-income families are selling up and moving out. As demand for housing for all income levels increases, Churchill Gardens can be densified to maintain the mix of affordable and market housing. The Filter is applied within the interior of Churchill Gardens, supplying programme mixes of housing and common resources such as sports, leisure, shops, markets, and restaurants. These act as a mixing ground between the enclave and its exterior, altering the large-scale fabric of the existing estate into smaller communities, intensifying the streetscape, and diversifying the public realm.





2. New development area is proposed to create a diversity of housing typologies

3. The developer invests in community projects

1. The demand for centrally located housing means lower-income residents sell to a higher-income demographic

4. In exchange, the developer constructs new housing

Residents have access to facilities

Maintenance fee used for upkeep of community facilities

5. New investment in community infrastructure act as attractor programme facilitating exchange










The Patch is a tool that mixes top-down and bottom-up strategies to activate the creation of a diverse urban fabric in terms of typologies of buildings, activities, and inhabitants. A gridded composition of formally planned elements is inserted within patches of deregulated, non-planning zones that enable informal processes to become established. The Patch is used to avoid generic models of urban planning involving grids or over-regulated zoning plans. These also tend to be built in one go or in predetermined phases, while the Patch sets up different processes of urbanisation, each with its own time frame, allowing the fabric to evolve at different speeds. The formally planned component is applicable to institutional or knowledge-based industries such as universities, businesses, or technology parks, whereas the informal aspect is for mixed-use housing and commercial programmes.


APPLICATION Sites that are empty or have been cleared, and have little remaining urban fabric. For example: greenfield sites, vacated brownfield sites, or sites of obsolescent infrastructure such as airports, railways, or shipyards. Additionally, sites that have been left out of or ignored in historical planning processes that gain relevance in current planning decisions, thereby requiring new initiatives to rethink how they can be used.


BARKING RIVERSIDE, SUSTAINABLE INDUSTRIES PARK, LONDON RIVERSIDE, UK The London Thames Gateway, since being heralded as London’s new regeneration area in the early 2000s, has been replaced by a series of separate development areas as a consequence of changes at both the central and local government levels. This has resulted in plans being superseded, development corporations being devolved, policy shifts, and new ideas on how projects should be delivered. London Riverside is one of these fragments that comprises multiple plots, including the construction of a new community of 10,800 homes at Barking Riverside and a seventeen-acre Sustainable Industries Park to promote ‘cleantech industries’. Rather than plan these two zones as distinct areas, each with its own typology of urban fabric, the Patch sets forth a mechanism to mix the formal structures of the sustainable industries together with housing. By embedding large-scale buildings within smaller-scale residential fabric, mutually beneficial programmes can evolve. For example: shared programmes such as kindergartens, gyms, shops, and restaurants could serve both the working and residential populations; or land-banking could create natural pockets as an open space resource. The combination of formally planned institutional blocks and more loosely regulated controls on mixed-use housing allows a range of housing typologies and diverse combinations of programmes to emerge.


TEMPELHOF AIRPORT, BERLIN, GERMANY Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport was closed to aviation in 2008. In May 2010, it was given to the public as a park, with over 300,000 square metres of the existing terminal building leased to more than a hundred institutions and businesses. However, the land represents an opportunity for the government to develop inexpensively in a central location, and proposals were initiated to develop 25 % of the land into housing. However, a public referendum in 2014 rejected this plan and the airfield remains a park and event space. The Patch strategy can be applied in the leftover space between the outer airport service road and the site boundary. The bottom-up component is offered in plots by lottery application to interested community groups or small businesses in order to diversify activities. This could include: allotments, urban farms, adventure playgrounds, fabricators, or small start-ups. New affordable housing blocks can then be inserted into this mix, providing an open garden within each courtyard. The intent is to intensify the number and variety of programmes at the airport’s periphery and provide much-needed housing without detracting from Tempelhof’s significance as a common ground for Berliners.





Garden centre 1. Berliners reject development plans in 2014

2. The demand for affordable housing is high

Adventure playground 3. The left-over space between airfield and road is designated as a community development zone


5. Affordable housing is integrated overlapping different plots

MICRO-BORDER 4. Plots are assigned to community groups by lottery Urban residents


Football club





The Belt is a mechanism for creating a programmatic link between two distinct territories. It acts as a mediator between the two sides, forming a common ground and a platform for shared interests. By acting as a third space that is part of neither one territory nor the other, it takes advantage of the differences between the two to create benefits for both sets of inhabitants. It can operate as an infrastructural spine, supplying energy or other services that enable businesses, start-ups, or other programmes to plug in and occupy the space. It can also be used to encourage the clustering of certain industries that can benefit each other through their spatial adjacency, for example creative or high-tech industries.



SLUM UPGRADING, MUMBAI, INDIA Slums in Mumbai are contested sites involving numerous stakeholders, including municipal authorities, residents’ groups, pavement dwellers, and NGOs. As slums encroach on public amenities and push their borders towards adjacent neighbourhoods, tensions grow between communities and increase the pressure for government intervention to clear sites. However, resettlement and improvement works are difficult to instigate as they require cooperation from numerous parties. In this example, the Belt acts to negotiate the boundary between the slum and its neighbours. It occupies the edge, extending pedestrian bridges across the road or railway that bounds the settlement. The Belt can tap into water and sewage infrastructure in the adjacent neighbourhood to create toilets and bathhouses at key nodes along its length. In between, pavement dwellers could be rehoused in micro-flats. Additional facilities are incrementally added to reflect the actions of the community, such as markets, waste sorting, or handicrafts. The aim is for the Belt to deflect and surmount some of the detrimental aspects of the slum that create animosity from the neighbouring district. Rather than being built on occupied land, the Belt originates from residual spaces at the periphery that have been created at the interface between the slum and its adjacent road or rail infrastructure.


NEW ISLINGTON, MANCHESTER, UK New Islington is a project to regenerate the Cardroom Estate in Ancoats, one of the most deprived districts in East Manchester. Developed by Urban Splash and master-planned by Will Alsop, the aim is to create a new community, complete with school, park, medical centre, and a range of housing types for a range of income groups. The goal is social cohesion within a vibrant, mixed inner-city neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the development stalled due to the recession, but construction has now resumed. One disadvantage is that the new district remains cut off from the city centre by an existing big-box development, the Central Retail Park. This creates a micro-border between the city and the new district. The Belt can be deployed to create a suture between the two conditions. By using the residual spaces at the back and two sides of the box, and hijacking excess space within the compound, new programmes are initiated without disrupting the service routes of the retail park. For example: a vocational centre provides training to assist people into employment together with workspaces to encourage the formation of cluster industries. Or the building could operate as an outpost of one of Manchester’s tertiary institutions, thereby bringing a new population into the district, bridging the gap between the city and New Islington’s residents. The Belt mediates the border, effectively increasing its porosity and dissolving the edges between the community, the retail park, and the city centre.


APPLICATION Sites at the boundary between two distinct urban conditions. This can occur at different scales: the territorial (between nation states), the urban (between districts), or the neighbourhood (between different settlement types). The Belt occupies sites that have physical spatial divisions that can be bridged, such as rivers or roads.


New connections 2. New connection create linkages to city Barrier 1. The big box retail outlet forms a barrier between city and new building


New connections

Student centre

Central retail park

New connections 3. The residual spaces are opportunities for new programmes

Vocational centre Cluster industries






4. Collaboration between higher education institutions and local businesses can stimulate employment in the area

New connections

New Islington





The Ring is a planning tool designed to orchestrate simultaneous remediation and industrialisation. It allows loose regulation of industrial activities on land plots as long as the circumference of the site is being remediated to remove toxins and reduce pollutants. Over time, this band expands, until the entire site is given over to full remediation at the end of its cycle. This time-based plan can allow for flexibility in planning use and avoids committing to long-term statutory plans that may not reflect the actual activities taking place. The idea is to allow temporary land-use changes while keeping open the possibility that, in the long term, the land could return to its original state.


APPLICATION Sites undergoing rapid industrialisation; peri-urban conditions that mix agricultural use with industrial sites; or sites that are being used for activities that are precluded by planning designation. It could also be used on abandoned, deindustrialised sites as a strategy to gradually prepare the land for future use.


DONGGUAN, PEARL RIVER DELTA, CHINA The first phase of industrialisation in China was made possible through loose planning controls on rural land. As villages owned their land-use rights, they were able to develop or lease their land for industrial uses that responded to new economic incentives. As the urban area of cities such as Dongguan expands and encroaches on rural land, the government is attempting to regulate the land use of villages through the creation of the ‘villagers to residents policy’, which relinquishes individual rights to a shareholding cooperative. The Ring can be deployed as a mechanism to conciliate these transitions. At the early stage, it can minimise pollutants through its time-based remediation, yet allow open-ended land use. At later stages, the strategy prevents future land use choice from being impacted by previous usage; the land could even return to agricultural use. As the pressures for this land to become part of the city increase, the Ring allows for multiple occupation and variation of land uses that can satisfy both individual village rights and strategic governmental policy.


DETROIT, USA The city of Detroit is an extreme example of a shrinking city, created by the combined impacts of decentralisation of industry, suburbanisation, and racial tension. The vacancy of the city and lack of tax income have left Detroit on the verge of bankruptcy, with houses burnt or torn down and empty plots proliferating. As the city is gradually left to nature, the soil remains scarred with the pollutants from its prior use, particularly lead from the car industry. Fortunately, Detroit has a strong network of activists and charities working on projects related to urban agriculture. Keep Growing Detroit assists farmers with soil tests and techniques to transform empty plots into market gardens. However, they are limited by uncertain land tenure, quality of the soil, and investment. The Ring strategy could bring these grassroots enterprises together in a strategic plan to implement a time-based process of remediation followed by agricultural production in abandoned districts of the city. By initially remediating the edge of each plot, and agreeing to provide temporary occupation of the land for a minimum of ten years, the city can encourage more ambitious farming enterprises. As a network of organisations, joint resources could be shared, such as composting, seed banks, greenhouses, or distribution centres. At a minimum, the Ring, by kick-starting a process of decontamination, offers the opportunity for the city to prepare itself for a possible future rather than accepting its ongoing demise.


Food waste collection

1. Economic crisis causes outflow of residents



Seed bank

District composting

3. Existing agricultural enterprises take advantage of new policy

Tools and distribution centre


2. City provides 10-year tenancy agreements on abandoned plots







4. Stakeholder network develops from existing groups such as Keep Growing Detroit




The Valve is a mechanism to concentrate, intensify, and release pressure from one urban condition to another. It provides effective governance of fluid cross-boundary flows, such as pollution. Typically, these might be channel flows that originate as waste outputs in a polluting environment and become productive inputs on the other side of the border, thereby realigning into a metabolic system. As a planning tool, the Valve is a self-governing mechanism that links and moderates inflows and outflows between two parts of a system. This means that, in an ecological approach, it provides feedback into the system it regulates, with the potential for it to become part of the synthetic ecosystem itself.


APPLICATION Applicable to sites that have become unstable as a result of shifting boundary activities that have unbalanced the ecosystem, causing unwanted outputs on one or both sides. Relevant to areas of rapid development through industrialisation, where the volatile effects and outputs of this process lead to excesses of pollution or overuse of existing resources such as water.


TIJUANA RIVER, MEXICO The Tijuana River is a channelised floodway that bisects the US–Mexico border. Various informal uses, including temporary settlements of cross-border migrants populate its river banks. Across the border, the river flows into the US border patrol areas and the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park, an estuarine wetland adjacent to Imperial Beach. Periodic floods carry sediment, sheet metal and tyres from informal settlements. Unprocessed raw sewage flows across the border, although partially offset by a sewage treatment plant in the 1980s, this affects beach quality, leisure and tourism activities on both sides. In 2015, a cross-border agreement tackled upstream and downstream pollution issues through infrastructure that negatively impacts settlement patterns and limits river access. The Valve can insert a series of local recycling points at various spots in the river catchment basin and along stream tributaries, to generate valueadded industries by recycling tyres into rubberised substrates that can be sold across the border. This serves to reduce river pollution and feeds back into the local economy rather than contributing to the larger degradation of the environment.


PLASTICVIEW, MORELETEPARK GEMEENTE, PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA Plasticview is an informal settlement of four thousand inhabitants that has existed in Moreletepark since 2009. The settlement is a mix of migrant workers from other countries and from the region who work in low-paid construction and service jobs. Plasticview’s name derives from the appropriation of second-hand building materials, which have been used to construct a series of seven-metre-by-seven-metre informal residences made of plastics, tin, plywood, carpet, and underfelt. While the quasi-formalisation of the settlement in its current grid was negotiated by a local NGO, the precarious nature of the poorly serviced settlement means the threat of eviction is never far away. Water and basic support systems such as childcare are almost non-existent. The Valve can be deployed to link across the settlement boundary to the adjoining large-scale evangelical, multidenominational church complex. This connection can take the form of water collected from the roof of the complex and stored to provide a local water supply. As well, preschool education for the 150 children under five can be housed in the complex and supported by the churchgoers offering a base level of social services and security. Micro social enterprises working across this boundary, such as craft markets and cooked food for the congregation of over seven thousand, can provide additional economic connections on Sundays. The Valve can therefore stimulate cross-boundary connections and feedback systems that stabilise the settlement, allowing it time to begin to become an accepted community.




3. Residents from nearby areas periodically visit the church

1. Roof of church to provide water for informal settlement 2. Existing water tanks in community connected to church providing stable access

4. New crafts market develops, attracting churchgoers

5. Local crafts develop in the informal settlement

6. Local employment displaces the need to travel long distances for work











The Meshwork is a nonhierarchical network that promotes bottom-up shared interests or negotiates planning conflicts. Initially composed of a series of ‘acupuncture’ nodes, the Meshwork allows for the gradual development of a common ground through interlinking territorial, environmental, and social issues. Eventually this crystallises into a series of alliances, pathways, and interconnections that can leverage larger policies and common ecological approaches. The Meshwork therefore is developed from the tactical without recourse to top-down strategic planning policy and allows for the development and localisation of bottom-up planning approaches.


APPLICATION Applicable to situations where territorial entities have a series of conflicting border or microborder conditions resulting in the need for a concerted joint approach, yet only local initiatives are possible. Through the gradual agglomeration of issues, larger common planning approaches become possible.


GUANG MING URBAN FRINGE, SHENZHEN, CHINA The Guang Ming area is a migrant farming and light-industrial community on the northern periphery of Shenzhen. As a fringe area, it faces development pressures from the urban expansion of both Shenzhen and Dongguan, and is increasingly bisected by infrastructure that divides its agricultural and waterway systems. On a larger scale, this fragments the northern green belt of Shenzhen’s municipal boundary. Development in this area is characterised by unregulated aggregation and chunking together of small landholdings and the consequent removal of the former landholders, who have very few means to resist such pressures. This results in events such as the 2015 landslide in the area that killed sixty-nine people. The Meshwork can be deployed as a means to aggregate the small landholders who, by sharing resources and working cooperatively, could allow for new forms of planning regulation and environmental management systems. At the same time, developing communal agricultural enterprises could eventually contribute to economies of food sovereignty in Shenzhen. Further, when applied to entire urban fringe areas, an ecological boundary zone could be maintained along Shenzhen’s northern edge as a planning entity.


NORTH PHILADELPHIA GARDEN NETWORK, USA A predominantly migrant and Afro-American inner-city zone, formerly an industrial area, North Philadelphia is characterised by forms of urban blight, including race riots, drugs, workplace evisceration, population flight, and general neglect as part of an ongoing decline that has lasted for over forty years. At present there are more than thirty thousand vacant lots. The gap-toothed urban fabric that was previously a battlefield for drug peddling and other illicit activities has in recent years become a series of over thirty urban infill community-run gardens, greens, and mini-parks. These gardens, developed through community initiatives and a tactical approach to urban improvement, have contributed to lot stabilisation, community cohesion, and engagement, and by aligning community needs with these amenities they have had positive impacts in the reduction of street crime. However, they remain largely disconnected. The Meshwork could allow for the combination and linking of different community gardens into larger common collectives, generating a unique urban pattern, with amenities such as cycle tracks, safe pedestrian routes, farmers’ markets, and a range of different gardens and play spaces constituting new kinds of green infrastructures. The synergies gained can influence forms of planning for the municipality’s Green City Strategy for Philadelphia.




Village Factory

4. Villages become hub for communal agricultural enterprises


5. Areas with high risk of pollution rezoned for agricultural enterprises


3. Networks of farmers leveraged to alert authorities of pollution from nearby industry


Industrial agriculture

2. Villagers are incentivised to keep agricultural smallholdings active due to higher profits from organic produce Agricultural smallholdings

factory Potential expansion area for small-scale agriculture



Agricultural small holdings




1. Demand for organic products increases as China becomes more affluent



The examples demonstrate the variety, complexity and nuanced political and social contexts of a selection of micro-borders in different locations around the world. The application of the tactics is not as a deterministic and comprehensive design solution, but an entry point to trigger new thinking on sites that have often reached developmental stasis or stagnation owing to planning grid-lock or disputes between stakeholders. Often, these result from enclave conditions that create micro-borders within the city. The design tools derived from the HongKong Shenzhen border can therefore challenge the predisposition of the enclave through the use of ecology, not just as a way of understanding, but as a fundamental approach to designing the city.

The enclave has been perpetuated by increasing polarisation within the urban realm that has created pockets of extreme wealth adjacent to extreme poverty, pushing lowerincome citizens to the periphery. At the same time, the working poor have become instrumental in facilitating the economic growth of new cities such as Shenzhen or in supplying a low-paid labour force to support the service sector economies of global cities such as Hong Kong. 1 Amidst both high-income and lowincome populations, the enclave organises the urban fabric according to this increasing disparity. Historically, the enclave is not uncommon in Chinese architecture and planning, as can be seen in the forms of the Forbidden Palace, the walled city or village, and the courtyard house, as well as the Danwei – a spatial unit for work, living and social life created by the Chinese Communist Party in its first five-year plan (1953–7) – as a principal device to organise urban society. These bounded spaces were walled, controlled entities with singular functions that included factories as well as hospitals and universities. 2 Each iteration of enclave has had particular impacts on urban morphology. Its modern form in speculative city developments is pervasive if not more insidious, becoming a dominant force in contemporary urban development. Enclaves exclude through financial segregation, security controls, or fear. Stephen Grahame describes the securitisation of the city in a post-9/11 world as a direct threat to the open city in that governments will ‘… reengineer cities so that their porous, open and intrinsically fluid spaces and systems become little more than an endless series of securitised passage points’. 3 The influence of this securitisation of urban space can be felt in typologies such as shopping malls, privatised housing estates, slums, and “multi-programmed compounds”. 4

1 — Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991. 2 — Bjorklund, E. M. ‘The Danwei: Socio-Spatial Characteristics of Work Units in China’s Urban Society.’ Economic Geography 62, no. 1 (1986): 19-29.

David Grahame Shane describes such compounds as ‘hybrid urban fragments’ 5 consisting of amalgamations of apartments, hotels, shopping malls, and in some cases transport interchanges. Typically built by a singular developer in a single phase, they offer little scope for future change and have become the predominant mode of speculative development in many urban environments. Often, they combine multiple plots into singular sites, the consolidation allowing for economies of scale in both planning and architecture, whilst privatising infrastructural elements such as roads and transport systems within. This erodes street fabric and public spaces and denies occupancy by a range of stakeholders undertaking a broad scope of businesses. These are edited out of our cityscape in the promotion of more homogeneous and profit-making enterprises. In this process, the site boundary becomes the mechanism by which to define the degree of separation of the enclave from its surrounding context. For example, at the Union Square mixed use complex in Kowloon, Hong Kong, the ground level is for air extraction, fire egress, buses, and taxis. Entry is predominantly from within, via the underground MTR station or through limited and controlled access points. The public spaces, open plazas, and restaurants are centralised and only accessible via a labyrinthine shopping mall. The boundary acts as a filter – a selectively porous edge – that forms a barrier to the exterior, enabling the compound to become introverted, a semiautonomous interior nullifying its exterior surroundings, evident through the hard-edged, five-storey wall that demarcates the compound’s internal life from surrounding streets. This is reinforced by privatised policing, security and rule systems that further exacerbate differences across the enclave’s boundaries. This is by no means a unique condition, but

3 — Stephen Grahame, ‘Specters of Terror’, City of Collision: Jerusalem and the Principles of Conflict Urbanism, ed. Philipp Misselwitz and Tim Rieniets, Basel: Birkhäuser Architecture, 2006, 156–62.

4 — Writing in the context of Jerusalem as a laboratory for ‘conflict urbanism’, the authors of City of Collision posit that although Jerusalem exemplifies a worst-case scenario of the militarisation of urban planning and architecture, such spatial products of control, as demonstrated by the enclave, permeate our contemporary urban condition.




is increasingly becoming a normal pattern of city development.

MICRO-BORDER EXCHANGE MECHANISM The consequence for the city is that these types of enclaves inevitably negate the differences, contrasts, conflicts, and multi-layered urbanism that make cities dynamic theatres of the human condition. 6 As the enclave proliferates, microborders form at its edges, creating more bounded and restricted spaces, crystalising over time until their edges become defensive barriers to further development. In order to avoid the exacerbation of the closed-city and move towards a conceptually open city, 7 micro-borders require spatio-temporal tools to negotiate difference and promote exchange across their boundaries.

form rather than its stagnation. Together these point towards a very different approach to the design and growth of cities. One not predicated on spatial logics and territorial extension, as found in the planimetric and strategic, but in the temporally intricate, the local and the tactical, in the myriad of urban ecologies that constitute an appropriate form of city for the urban age.


URBAN ECOLOGIES AS OPEN CITY The degree of connectivity between urban ecologies in an open city is therefore an indication of the resilience and health of that ecology, and by extension, of the urban environment considered as a system of interconnected ecologies. By approaching cities as aggregated and interdependent urban ecologies, our aim is to challenge the formation of closed enclave forms of urbanism. This approach is based on the following concepts: that ecologies work with porosity rather than exclusion; exchange rather than containment; and cooperation rather than autonomy. That they are based on furthering relationships rather than controlling separations. They are dynamic systems, always in flux and in states of change, not fixed and immutable. They work to interface with different systems, engaging environmental, economic, and social factors. They are responsive to time, favouring phasing and temporal shifts over permanent outcomes, with the intent to allow for the evolution of urban

5 — David Grahame Shane, ‘The Fragmented Metropolis’, Urban Design Ecologies: AD Reader, ed. Brian McGrath, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2013, 260–71.

6 — Peter Carl argues for ‘the messy, conflicted, layered city’ in ‘Learning from Learning from Dubai’, Cities from Zero, ed. Shumon Basar, London: AA Publications, 2007, 113–23.

7 — Richard Sennett, ‘Boundaries and Borders’, Living in the Endless City: The Urban Age Project by the London School of Economics and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society, ed. Richard Burdett and Deyan Sudjic, London: Phaidon Press, 2011, 324–31.




Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell have been collaborating on “Border Ecologies” since 2008. Joshua Bolchover is an Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong and Peter Hasdell is an Associate Professor at the School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Both are architects who have worked extensively in the fields of planning and urbanism.

Authors Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell

The project began after Raoul Bunschoten, former mentor, teacher and employer, introduced Joshua and Peter in 2007. The shared experiences of working with Raoul at Chora Institute of Architecture and Urbanism and his insights into urban dynamics has been an invaluable common ground, conceptual foundation and a point of departure that have helped shape the project and its methodology.

Research Assistants Brian Wong, Jonathan Pang, Alana Tam, Su Chang, Kevin Huang, Chan Yat Ning Chester, Maggie Hua

The book would not have been possible without the support of the Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong and the School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University as well as the following funding sources: the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Seed Funding for Basic Research, The University of Hong Kong; Department General Research Funds (School of Design), Polytechnic University Start-up Funding. Additionally, we would like to thank the following people without whose help the book would not have been possible: Matthew Hung for his dedication and commitment to the project in all levels of research, concept development and production; Bas Princen for his photography; Thomas Dahm for the graphic design; Jessica Pyman for her editing and critical input; Mary Ann O’Donnell and Viola Yan Wan for their essay; Brian Wong for his detailed fieldwork; Katharina Kulke and Ulrich Schmidt at Birkhäuser and Siu Hon-cheung for facilitating access to the FCA. Furthermore we would like to thank the numerous people we have interviewed formally and informally during the course of the research that have aided our understanding of the complexities of the border.

Senior Research Assistant Matthew Hung

Graphic Design Thomas Dahm, Studio Thomas Dahm

All project designs, diagrams, images and photographs are the copyright of Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell unless otherwise stated.



FRONT MATTER Aerial photos reproduced with permission of the Director of Lands. © The Government of the Hong Kong SAR. License No. 78/2016: 1. TIMELINE Hong Kong Public Records Office, Government Records Service: 26, 27(L,R), 28(L,R), 29(R), 30(R). Hong Kong Museum of Art Collection / Photo Supplied by The Hong Kong Museum of Art.: 27(M). HKSAR Government: 29(L,M), 30(L,M), 31, 32(L,R). Copyright ©2016 Hong Kong Economic Times. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission: 33(L,R). SHEN KONG: CUI BONO? Bao'an Land. Government publication by Shenzhen Municipal Survey Department, 1984: 41. THE FRONTIER CLOSED AREA Bas Princen, December 2015. ENCLAVES AND CODEPENDENCY Copyright ©2016 Microsoft Corporation: 102, 108, 110, 112. INBETWEENERS Aerial photos reproduced with permission of the Director of Lands. © The Government of the Hong Kong SAR. License No. 78/2016: 126. Copyright ©2016 Microsoft Corporation: 127, 128, 129, 130.

INTERSTITIAL INFRASTRUCTURE Copyright ©2016 Microsoft Corporation: 139, 146, 148, 150. F.L.C. / ADAGP, Paris, 2016: 143(L). Authority of Qianhai ShenzhenHong Kong Modern Services Industries Cooperation Zone of Shenzhen: 143(R). SCARRED LANDSCAPES Copyright ©2016 Microsoft Corporation: 163, 167, 170, 173. Map data ©2016 Google: 163, 173. INVISIBLE EXCHANGE Copyright ©2016 Microsoft Corporation: 181, 189, 190. VILLAGE ALLIANCES Hong Kong Government Archives: 206. Map data ©2016 Google: 205, 207, 211. MICRO-TACTICS Map Data ©2016 Google, Image ©2016 DigitalGlobe: 219, 221, 223, 225, 227, 229, 231.



Concept Joshua Bolchover Peter Hasdell Texts Joshua Bolchover Peter Hasdell Matthew Hung Mary Ann O’Donnell Viola Yan Wan Photo-essay Bas Princen Copy editing John Sweet Project management Katharina Kulke Production Heike Strempel Layout, cover design and typesetting Thomas Dahm Paper Tauro Offset pp. 1– 48, pp.81– 240 Lumi Silk pp. 49 – 80 Printing Grafisches Centrum Cuno GmbH Co & KG

Library of Congress Catalogingin-Publication data A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress. Bibliographic information published by the German National Library. The German National Library lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in other ways, and storage in databases. For any kind of use, permission of the opyright owner must be obtained. This publication is also available as an e-book ISBN PDF 978-3-0356-0284-5 ISBN EPUB 978-3-0356-0604-1 © 2017 Birkhäuser Verlag GmbH, Basel P.O. Box 44, 4009 Basel, Switzerland Part of Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston Printed on acid-free paper produced from chlorine-free pulp. TCF ∞ Printed in Germany ISBN: 978-3-0356-0601-0 987654321