The Jockey Club Civic Exchange “Reconnecting Open Space” Programme is a public engagement project that aims to evaluate and raise societal awareness on the quality of open space in Hong Kong. The initiative is funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and led by Civic Exchange, an independent public-policy think tank that aims to inform policy and engage stakeholders on addressing environmental and development challenges in Hong Kong. This one-year project includes an 18-district-wide public opinion survey, capacity-building programmes for tertiary and secondary students, a workshop, a public forum, and a research report on creating inclusive open space in the city.
Public Opinion Survey and Report
Civic Exchange interviewed 3,600 Hong Kong residents across 18 districts between January and February 2018 to collect information about their usage and preference of open space. Our researchers conducted four focus groups to examine the needs, usage patterns and sanctification levels of different open space users.
Civic Exchange runs a “covering open space” multimedia project with Hong Kong Baptist University to help 40 journalism students understand more about the topic and report on relevant news stories in Hong Kong; we also organize seminars for urban planning and design students. During summer, we co-hosted a camp for 80 secondary school students with our project partner Hong Kong Public Space Initiative.
To raise public awareness of the importance of open space to our city, we organized a workshop in June 2018 to engage key stakeholders in various sectors, including the government, property developers, the academia, professional bodies, and community groups. A public forum was held at The University of Hong Kong on 26 October 2018.
Why Does Open Space Matter?
Overseas research shows that open space brings environmental, health, and social benefits to cities and residents. Open space with trees improves air ventilation, mitigates the urban heat island effect, and absorbs air pollutants and rainwater (if the ground surface is porous) to reduce pollution and prevent flooding. It also provides a place for people to exercise, relax, and socialise, thereby reducing illness, stress, and feelings of loneliness. Open space facilitates interaction among people living in a neighbourhood and provides a focal point for community activities. Elderly people particularly rely on open space to meet friends and stay involved in their communities. Urban theorists also argue that open space promotes social inclusion by allowing people from different backgrounds to interact with each other. In a densely populated city like Hong Kong, it is important to ensure that we have good quality open space that maximises benefits for all our residents.
The Provision of Open Space in Hong Kong
In 2012, Hong Kong had around 1,930 hectares of countable open space, which refers to recreational grounds managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Housing Authority as well as public open space in private and large, residential developments. This means each Hong Kong person enjoys 2.7 to 2.8 square metres of open space, which is significantly lower than people in other Asian cities such as Tokyo (5.8 m²), Seoul (6.1 m²), Shanghai (7.4 m²), and Singapore (7.6 m²).
Open Space Handbook
This handbook is an educational resource published by Civic Exchange in May 2018 to help journalists, journalism students, urban planners, and the public learn more about open space – its definition, benefits, and importance in Hong Kong. More information about the distribution of open space can be found in Civic Exchange’s February 2017 report, “Unopened Space: Mapping Equitable Availability of Open Space in Hong Kong”.
Open Space Reports
Civic Exchange conducted a public opinion survey of 3,600 Hong Kong residents across 18 districts on the quality of open space between January and February 2018. The goal is to develop evidence-based recommendations to inform policies on the planning, design, and management of open space as envisioned in “Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030”.
A companion study combining geospatial analysis with data from the opinion survey found that people who live closer to parks and open spaces smaller than 1 hectare are more likely to report less anxiety.
A small group of key stakeholders from the government, property developers, the academia, professional bodies in urban planning and design, district councilors, and community groups discussed the challenges and opportunities of creating inclusive open space in Hong Kong at a workshop in June 2018.
A public forum titled “Space Talk, Space Walk” was held on 26 October 2018 at the Graduate House WGW Theatre at The University of Hong Kong. The morning session highlighted findings of the 3,600-respondent survey from Civic Exchange and presentations from other experts on open space research and initiatives. This was followed by six optional guided tours to visit different open space in various districts in the afternoon.
Ms Carine Lai
Carine Lai has an MSc in International Planning, a BA in Political Science, and a BFA in Studio Art. She has been conducting research for Civic Exchange since 2004 and has a keen interest in urban design, public open space, walkability, planning history, land policy, and political economy in Hong Kong.
Ms Vicky Kung
Vicky Kung has an MSc in Urban Planning and a BSocSc in Journalism. She was originally trained as a trilingual journalist at TVB Pearl and RTHK English and later joined Civic Exchange in 2016. She is interested in urban planning and how public-private partnerships can enhance the wellbeing of cities and their dwellers.