ARI Working Paper Series
WPS 260 Imagining a New Urban Commons: Heritage Preservation as/and Community Movements in Hong Kong
Publisher : Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
Publication Date : Jun / 2017
Author/Speaker: Desmond Hok-Man SHAM
Keywords : Heritage preservation, community movement, right to the city, urban commons, Hong Kong

This paper reviews the community movements in Wanchai, Hong Kong, which mobilized the discourses of heritage preservation as a tactic to resist displacement and to support residents’ rights to participate in the planning process. By contextualizing and analysing the Lee Tung Street (2004–2008) and Blue House Cluster community movements (2006–2012), this paper argues that the discourse of heritage preservation provides opportunities for potentially displaced communities to engage with the state without being distorted as “greedy residents”. In a highly commercialized society dominated by the property regime, “land” in Hong Kong has long been treated as a commodity. The dominant understanding of “rights” has often been associated with “ownership”. This paper argues that cultural heritage, associated with a “sense of place” and “place-attachment” transcends the public–private dichotomy, and provides an alternative understanding of “rights” disassociated from property ownership. Regardless of the results of the community movements, which cannot be determined solely by the affected residents and businesses, the paper suggests that the community movements in Wanchai actualize cultural heritage as a space to imagine a new urban commons.