A study conducted by a local policy research unit has shown that the average open space a person enjoys in Hong Kong is just two square metres, about the size of a coffin or a toilet cubicle.

Local think tank Civic Exchange conducted the study using 2012 statistics obtained from the Planning Department in 2012. The study found that Hongkongers enjoy less open space on average than those in other major cities.

People in Shanghai enjoy twice that amount – four square metres, or the size of an elevator cabin. Singaporeans have 7.5 square metres, which is about two-thirds of a parking space, while New Yorkers have 29 square metres, the equivalent of a 310 square foot apartment.

open space hong kong
The average open space for a HKer, as shown in black.

Although the finding conforms to government guidelines — planning guidelines entitle each person to two square metres of open space — Civic Exchange found that those living in Wan Chai, Kowloon City, Yuen Long, Sai Kung and parts of the Western District have even fewer that. People living in Kennedy Town, for example, only enjoyed 0.77 square metres of open space, which is smaller than half a coffin. The open space there is centred mostly in two areas, Belcher Bay and Cadogan Street Temporary Garden, despite the district housing a population of 60,000.

If the Development Bureau goes ahead with its plan to demolish the Cardogan Street Temporary Garden to make way for private housing estates, the open space in Kennedy Town will be slashed by a further 10 percent, leaving people in the area with 0.68 square metres of open space.

Cadogan Street Temporary Garden
People picnicking at Cadogan Street Temporary Garden.

Carine Lai, Project Manager of Civic Exchange’s “Unopened Space” project, told Apple Daily that it was very important for the public to have space to rest outside of their houses.

She cited overseas studies demonstrating that open space is positively correlated with the life expectancy and health of senior citizens.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.