On 27 August 2022, the Symposium on CountrysideConservation and Rural Revitalization was successfully held as one of theevents celebrating the 111th Anniversary of the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Co-organizedby the Centre of Urban Studies and Urban Planning (CUSUP) of HKU and a CountrysideConservation Funding Scheme (CCFS) project team led by Prof Shenjing He, theSymposium brought together many experts in the field of rural research andrural revitalization from Mainland China and Hong Kong. It also served as aconcluding event for the CCFS project ‘Towards Sustainable and InclusiveConservation and Revitalisation in Hing Chun Yeuk Seven Villages, Kuk Po andFung Hang, Hong Kong’, led by Prof Shenjing He, Head of the Department of UrbanPlanning and Design, HKU.
The seminar was chaired by Prof Bo-sinTang, Director of CUSUP, HKU. Over 500 participants joined in physically orvirtually, including government officials, scholars, urban planners, membersfrom the tourism industry, and local villagers.
Prof Shenjing He: ‘Building a Modern Yeukin Hong Kong’s Countryside: the case of Yan Chau Tong’
The first speaker was Prof Shenjing He,Head of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and Founding Director of theSocial Infrastructure for Equity and Wellbeing (SIEW) Lab, HKU, and PrincipalInvestigator of the CCFS project ‘Towards Sustainable and InclusiveConservation and Revitalisation in Hing Chun Yeuk Seven Villages, Kuk Po andFung Hang, Hong Kong’. With a vision of ‘Building a Modern Yeuk’, Prof Heintroduced the ‘Yeuk’ history in China as a basic self-organization system andsocial norm emphasizing mutual help and reciprocity, and the changes in therural Yeuk organization in Hong Kong. By explaining the key programmes ofagroecosystem, eco-tourism, village circular economy, and community building,Prof He stressed the value of Modern Yeuk as a mode of polycentric governancefor incorporating ancient ecological and social wisdoms into the modern socialeconomic system.
Prof Chengwei Huang: ‘National Rural RevitalizationStrategies in China’
The second speaker was Prof Chengwei Huang,Director of the Poverty Alleviation and Development Centre of the State Counciland Director of the Poverty Governance Centre at Peking University. From apolicy-making perspective, Prof Huang explained the significance of ruralrevitalization strategy and the goals of rural revitalization, and presentedkey working areas, including consolidating the achievements of povertyalleviation, developing rural industries, implementing rural constructions,improving rural governance, deepening rural reform, and strengthening theoverall leadership of the Communist Party, etc.
Prof Tiejun Wen: ‘The Transmutation ofEcological Strategy and Rural Revitalization’
The third speaker was Prof Tiejun Wen,Director of Rural Revitalization Centre at Peking University, Chairman andChief Researcher of the Academic Committee of Institute for RuralRevitalization Research at Jinan University, and Executive Dean of Institute ofRural Reconstruction of China at Southwest University. Prof Wen stressed theimportance of rural revitalization strategy in managing potential domestic andforeign risks from a macro political, economic, and financial perspective. Healso mentioned the need to break away from the conventional narratives abouturbanization and industrialization, and take human-centred ecological design asa transformation approach, so as to realize the integrated design in ruralrevitalization.
Prof Jinlong Liu: ‘Community Building inRural Revitalization’
The fourth speaker was Prof Jinlong Liu of theSchool of Agriculture Economics and Rural Development, Renmin University ofChina. Through introducing diversified types of rural community buildingprojects, Prof Liu explained that rural community mechanisms could help fillthe vacuum of grassroots participation amidst rural governance dynamics insuburban areas. Prof Liu also mentioned that through the coordinated effortsfrom scholars in Hong Kong and Mainland China, the ‘China InnovativeUrban-Rural Governance Research Network’ had been established to further thecontributions from grassroots governance research to inform ruralrevitalization.
Prof Stephen Tang: ‘CountrysideConservation and Urban-Rural Symbiosis’
The fifth speaker was Prof Stephen Tang,Head of the Countryside Conservation Office (CCO), Environmental ProtectionDepartment of the Hong Kong SAR Government. Prof Tang introduced thedevelopment of Hong Kong’s rural conservation policy and CCO’S workingstrategies, that since its establishment in 2018, CCO has been committed topromoting implementation of minor improvement projects (such as village paths,environmental-friendly smart toilets, sewage systems, etc.); subsidising andsupporting the Countryside Conservation Funding Scheme; and assisting inbusiness licence applications (such as guesthouses and restaurants) in rural regions.
Prof Weijen Wang: ‘Kuk-Po Vision:Architecture, Landscape, and Community through an Acupuncture Strategy’
The sixth speaker was Prof Weijen Wang fromthe Department of Architecture, HKU. His research focuses on Chinese architecture and cities, including thetransformation of courtyard typology, urban fabric and public space inhistorical and contemporary Chinese cities, and the typology of the Chinesetemple. As the leader of another CCFS project, Prof Wang introduced hiscurrent working progress in Kuk-Po Village, such as renovating village schoolsfor exhibitions, building ecological toilets, restoring ruined gardens andvillage houses. Prof Wang also expressed his hope to better promote the organicintegration between low-density green space and high-density urban landscape inHong Kong through acupuncture-style micro-renewal.
Dr Jin Zhu: ‘Planning and Practice in YanChau Tong 9 Villages’
The final speaker was Dr Jin Zhu, AssistantProfessor from the Department of Urban Planning and Design and the Departmentof Real Estate and Construction, HKU. He is also the co-investigator of theCCFS Project led by Prof Shenjing He. In the Symposium, Dr Zhu introduced theresearch background, as well as the main research activities and outputs of theproject as enveloped in ‘Three studies, Three Reports, and Two InteractivePlatforms’. He presented the progressive research process from concept plan toaction plan and facility plan, while also introducing the interactiveplatforms, i.e., the mobile application ‘Visit YCT’ and the project website: https://www.modernyeuk.hku.hk/.
RoundTable and Q&A Session
The round table discussion and Q&A sessionwere chaired by Prof Shenjing He, who invited all the speakers to discuss howto better promote the incorporation of Hong Kong’s rural revitalization effortsinto the national rural revitalization strategy and ecological civilization,and how to facilitate the integration of traditional rural ecological wisdomwith modern social and economic systems. The chair and speakers, onlineaudience, and on-site participants also shared their views on the future workof rural revitalization in Hong Kong and Mainland China.
In recent years, Hong Kong has heavily investedin a number of projects in the field of countryside conservation. However, thecoordination with Mainland China in terms of policy-making and implementationis still lacking. This symposium provides an opportunity for experts andscholars from Hong Kong and Mainland China to exchange ideas, allowing ruralstakeholders from different backgrounds to engage in dialogue at boththeoretical and implementation levels. The CCFS project team hopes thatpolicymakers in Hong Kong and the Mainland will continue the dialogue afterthis symposium, so as to better understand and evaluate their work from bothsides. The project team will also make further efforts to promote theincorporation of Hong Kong’s rural conservation work into the overalldevelopment framework of the national rural revitalization strategy andecological civilization construction.