New Book – Building Colonial Hong Kong by Cecilia L Chu

Cecilia Book Launch

New Book –

Building Colonial Hong Kong: Speculative Development and Segregation in the City by Cecilia L. Chu, has just been published in Routledge’s Planning, History and Environment Series.


In the 1880s, Hong Kong was a booming colonial entrepôt, with many European, especially British, residents living in palatial mansions in the Mid-Levels and at the Peak. But it was also a ruthless migrant city where Chinese workers shared bedspaces in the crowded tenements of Taipingshan. Despite persistent inequality, Hong Kong never ceased to attract different classes of sojourners and immigrants, who strived to advance their social standing by accumulating wealth, especially through land and property speculation.

In this engaging and extensively illustrated book, Cecilia L. Chu retells the ‘Hong Kong story’ by tracing the emergence of its ‘speculative landscape’ from the late nineteenth to the early decades of the twentieth century. Through a number of pivotal case studies, she highlights the contradictory logic of colonial urban development: the encouragement of native investment that supported a housing market, versus the imperative to segregate the populations in a hierarchical, colonial spatial order. Crucially, she shows that the production of Hong Kong’s urban landscapes was not a top-down process, but one that evolved through ongoing negotiations between different constituencies with vested interests in property. Further, her study reveals that the built environment was key to generating and attaining individual and collective aspirations in a racially divided, highly unequal, but nevertheless upwardly mobile, modernizing colonial city.

The book is now available in hardback and as an eBook (the paperback version will be available in 2023). For Chinese readers, a translated version will be available from The Commercial Press (H.K.) Ltd. soon. You can download the Preview of the book here.