HKU Members (in alphabetical order)

Board Members (in alphabetical order)

Post-docs/Research Associates (in alphabetical order)

Rong Cai (HKU), Mingjie Dai (HKU), Fabian Terbeck (HKU)

Research Postgraduates and Research Assistants (in alphabetical order)

Mingze Bai (HKU), Weihang Gong (HKU), Lirong Hu (HKU), Henry Kasimir Bugailiskis Fieglar (HKU), Chenxi Li (HKU), Yongshen Liu (City University of Hong Kong), Lu Shan (HKU), Chenxin Wan (HKU), Xiang Yan (HKU)

Former Members (in alphabetical order)

Kun Wang (Guangzhou Institute of Geography), Dunxu Wu (Shenzhen Pingshan District Planning and Development Center), Di Zeng (Tencent CSIG Cloud & Smart Industries Group), Jin Zhu (City University of Hong Kong)




  • The Rise of Education-featured Gated Communities in Chinese Cities: Formation Mechanism and Implications on Housing Differentiation, The Case of Guangzhou (Ref: 17614720), University Grants Committee of Hong Kong, General Research Fund (GRF), 01/2021-12/2023.
  • Multi-dimensional Housing Inequalities under Financialisation in Pandemic-stricken Chinese and European Megacities, University Research Committee, The University of Hong Kong, 01/2021-12/2023.
  • Equalisation of and Accessibility to Basic Public Services in Developed Regions in China: Theorisation and Practices, National Social Science Foundation of China, Major Research Project, 04/2020-04/2022.
  • The mechanism of low-income housing development and its integrative effects in urban China, National Science Foundation of China, General Program (Ref: 41871165), 01/2019 -12/2022.
  • Uneven Distribution of High-quality Healthcare Resources in Chinese Cities and Its Socio-spatial Implications, National Science Foundation of China, General Program (Ref: 41671153), 01/2017 -12/2020.
  • Chinese Investment in Bangladesh Infrastructure Projects, commissioned by Chinese Academy of Sciences, 01/2020-12/2020.
  • A Pilot Study on Green Development in Nepal, commissioned by Centre for International Knowledge on Development, Development Research Centre of the State Council of the People’s Republic China, 05/2019-05/2020.
  • Small Property Right Housing Development in China, University Research Committee, The University of Hong Kong, 06/2016-06/2019.
  • Low-end Housing Provision under Financialisation and Its Socio-spatial Implications in Urban China, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2016 China Program International Fellowship, 02/2016-02/2017.
  • Urban Socio-Spatial Restructuring in China, National Science Foundation of China, Excellent Young Scientist Fund (Ref: 41322003), 01/2014 -12/2016.
  • A political economy analysis of China’s urban redevelopment and its socio-spatial outcomes, National Science Foundation of China, General Program (Ref: 41271180), 01/2013 -12/2016.
  • Socio-spatial restructuring under the ‘three old’ redevelopment policy in Pearl River Delta, the State Key Laboratory of Sub-tropical Building Sciences, China, 12/2011-12/2013.
  • Urban redevelopment and socio-spatial restructuring from the analytical perspective of urban regime theory, the Ministry of Education, China, 01/2011-12/2012.
  • Two waves of gentrification and its socio-spatial consequences in Guangzhou, the Ministry of Education, China, 01/2011-12/2012
  • Gentrification in large Chinese cities under market transition, a case study of Guangzhou, National Science Foundation of China, Young Scholars Program (Ref: 40801061), 01/2009 -12/2011.

Social Infrastructure for Equity and Wellbeing

Siew Logo

Education, healthcare, social security and housing are the four pillars of the welfare state (Torgersen, 1978). The welfare of those who collectively contribute to a city’s wealth has been of concern to city elders for millennia. The modern welfare state underwent unprecedented expansion in the second half of the 20th century, pursuing with modern ideas, fiscal instruments and social and physical infrastructure, underpinned by unparalleled levels of income. The modern municipal government is now expected to deliver, via tax, land and other revenues, what has, over the millennia, been provided in a much less comprehensive and complete way via private and religious philanthropy. The cities of even the highest income countries are struggling under this noble responsibility, unable now to fund the publicly-subsidised health systems and generous pension schemes that in the post WW2 ‘welfare state revolution’ optimistically heralded a new phase of civilisation. If this is the West’s experience, what of today’s developing countries and countries navigating transitional economies? One thing is for sure: as the latter set their paths towards fair and fit, efficient and equitable futures, they need to learn sober lessons from the experience of the 20th century and plan for sustainable urban welfare systems. Covid-19 will make a huge difference to all these. Not so much because national and city governments will need to plan for pandemics and more virulent and frequent epidemics, but because of the financial legacy of governments’ crisis responses, which are of war-time proportions and will indebt the populations of rich and poor countries alike for several generations.

With the common goal of promoting citizens’ wellbeing, countries around the world have experimented with a variety of mechanisms to fund and deliver social infrastructure to levels of comprehensiveness suitable to their public purse. Urban welfare packages also vary by different priorities and levels of commitment, determined by politico-economic and institutional settings. In China, the equalisation and optimisation of social infrastructure across regions, cities and urban neighbourhoods, has become the next foremost task in tackling the problems of inequalities and uneven development that have accompanied the decades of rapid growth in the post-reform era (Li, He et al., 2020). Building upon the research team’s two decades of studies on urban (re)development, urban poverty, low-income housing, complex self-organising urban systems,  spontaneous social order, and gated communities; and supported by ongoing GRF and NSFC research projects, the SIEW lab brings together multi-disciplinary researchers from Europe, US, Australia, Japan, Mainland China and Hong Kong. Their shared interest is in probing the long lasting and deep seated problems of growth and inequality in three major types of urban social infrastructure, namely housing, healthcare, and education, with an ultimate interest in improving opportunity, equity and wellbeing among urban citizens. Synthesising theories and methodologies from multiple disciplines, the SIEW lab draws on critical urban theories, as well as behavioural economics, political, sociological, psychological and spatial theories about welfare, health, education and housing systems and regimes. SIEW’s specific foci include 1) formal and informal affordable housing development in developing economies; 2) multi-dimensional housing inequalities under financialisation in pandemic-stricken megacities; 3) uneven distribution of high-quality healthcare resources and resultant patient mobility and physician mobility; and 4) emerging forms of neighbourhood order, including for example, gated communities featuring privileged access to education service and exclusive residential environments and the systemic implications for equity in education, housing and urban resilience.