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Hong Kong as a property jurisdiction

Maurice K.-C. Yip (Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland)

Social Transformations in Chinese Societies

ISSN: 1871-2673

Article publication date: 13 July 2020

Issue publication date: 4 April 2022




This study aims to explore how urban governance of Hong Kong is impacted by the formulation and implementation of the new constitutional order of “one country, two systems” that distinguishes between the British colonial government and the current government under Chinese sovereignty.


While the literature recognises the society of Hong Kong has been heavily relying on land and property activities, few attempts notice the uniqueness of Hong Kong’s sequential constitutional orders and its relations to those activities. This study presents a geographical enquiry and an archival study to illustrate the spatiality of the new constitutional order and its implications on land injustice. Drawing from the works of legal geography and urban studies, this study extends and clarifies Anne Haila’s conception of Hong Kong as “property state” to “property jurisdiction”.


Though common law and leasehold land system were perpetuated from the colonial period, the new constitutional order changed their practices and the underlying logic and ideology. The urban governance order of this property jurisdiction is intended for prosperity and stability of the society, and for the economic benefit and territorial integrity claim of the Chinese sovereignty.


This study enriches the literature of Hong Kong studies in three major areas, namely, the relationship with China, urban governance and land injustice. It offers a conceptual discussion, which contributes to comparative territorial autonomies studies. It also contributes to legal geography by providing insights beyond the western liberal democracy model.



This article is dedicated to the memory of late Professor Anne Haila (1953–2019). I sincerely express my gratitude to Professor Anne Haila for her encouraging and constructive advice on the earlier version of this work. I thank Wing-Shing Tang, Lachlan Barber, Adrian J. Bailey and Chun Yang for their comments and criticisms on my earlier writings from which this article originated. I also thank Jean Ruegg for his support and having productive scientific discussions with me. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Hong Kong Studies Annual Conference in December 2019.


Yip, M.K.-.-C. (2022), "Hong Kong as a property jurisdiction", Social Transformations in Chinese Societies, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 1-18.



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