Formalizing colonial Hong Kong: Ending new squatting in 1984

History_Sau Mau Ping electrification, 1983
26 May 2022 09.30 AM - 11.00 AM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Florence Mok

Our forthcoming book reveals how Hong Kong, after decades of failing to resolve the “squatter problem”, finally succeeded in ending new squatting after 1984.  Squatting, and its replacement by formally developed urban space, had a major, and continuing, impact on the society, economy and environment of Hong Kong.  Little about contemporary Hong Kong can be understood without considering the influence of its massive public housing program, which began as squatter resettlement.  Our archival research builds on ethnographic work in the 1980s to answer how and why new squatting was finally ended in 1984, when the tide turned against informality more generally. This paper will consider multiple plausible explanations for this shift, and provides new perspectives on the decision-making processes of colonial Hong Kong, including a recognition of informality within government itself, as well as in the society it struggled to control.  We discovered that the end of new squatting can be traced back to the problem of squatters on land not intended for development, particularly on dangerous slopes.  This issue was first discussed intensively in 1970/1971 and eventually lead to a key bureaucratic measure, making registration in the 1984 Squatter Occupancy Survey a requirement for resettlement in permanent public housing. 

The speaker will be Alan Smart and Charles Fung:

Alan Smart is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada.  PhD in Social Anthropology from University of Toronto (1986). Research interests include political economy, housing, urban anthropology, anthropology of law, borders, zoonotic diseases, smart cities and posthumanism.  Field research conducted in Hong Kong, China and Canada.  Author of Making Room: Squatter Clearance in Hong Kong, The Shek Kip Mei Myth, and Posthumanism: Anthropological Perspectives(co-author Josephine Smart) and numerous book chapter and articles, including in prominent urban studies journals such as International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Studies, and Journal of Urban Affairs .

Fung Chi Keung Charles is a tutor in the Department of Sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. MPhil in Government and Public Administration from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Research interests include state (trans)formation, identity-making, Cold War geopolitics, and colonial governance. Previous works were published in East AsiaAsian Education and Development StudiesChina Review International, and Social Transformations in Chinese Societies.