A lesson from Hong Kong
By Anson Xu
On the second day of the
new year I flew to Hong Kong, one of my dream cities.
I had imagined Hong Kong as a city surrounded by the blue ocean,
covered by vast greenery and with numerous natural and artificial
beautiful scenes. I expected it to combine the cultures of both
the East and the West since it is renowned as a global fashion centre.
When my plane descended over the bridges connecting the islands
in the evening, I saw that the city was dotted with millions of
lights, just like stars shining in the sky. This first impression
was not bad.
But next morning it became a disaster, as I walked out of my hotel
located in North Point.
I was horrified by the scene of the city before me. I could only
think of one word in my brain: mess. I was prepared for Hong Kong
to be very crowded since every metropolis is. I had thought that
I would be able to bear it because I am from Shanghai. But I was
wrong. I was totally shocked by the mess and breathlessness of this
Every street was jammed with shops and every shop was jammed with
goods, let alone the crowds of stalls on the roadsides. The whole
city looked like a grocery. Streets were narrow and I didn't find
a two-way road all day. People struggled to throw themselves into
the metro or buses and cars could hardly move in the downtown.
This city is absolutely over-constructed. People should have realized
space was limited when pursuing more living facilities. The overloaded
land endangers the prosperity of the city. Nobody will favour living
or sightseeing in a salmon can.
I reckon there is an important lesson for Shanghai to learn from
Hong Kong, given that Shanghai is undergoing speedy development
and massive urban construction.
Careful planning is essential not only because over-heated urban
construction brings economic risks but also because it could lead
to the same embarrassing situation as now in Hong Kong.
Good city planning is required for the growth of a metropolis and
the designer should look forward not 10 years but 100 years or more.
We can never recreate the land once we have exhausted it. More skyscrapers
are not a solution for the city's living environment.
Satellite cities should be built to relieve the pressure on the
centre. It is not wise to lay down laws prohibiting immigration
but the government definitely should support and encourage reducing
the density of the downtown.
Fortunately, Shanghai is not an island city like Hong Kong, so we
have opportunities to do better in 20 years' time - roughly the
same period Shanghai is now believed to lag behind Hong Kong in
respect to its level of urban development. Think ahead.
(The author is an in-house legal counsel in an international investment
company in Shanghai)