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Cities and Urban Governance: Constraints and Challenges with reference to Transport and Housing in Hong Kong



Date 20 October 2020 (Tuesday)
Time 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Prof. Anthony Cheung

Research Chair Professor of Public Administration, Education University of Hong Kong

Former Secretary for Transport and Housing, HKSAR Government (2012-17)

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Under globalization, despite both disillusions and discontent seen in recent years, the 21st century is witnessing a world ruled by cities, in the words of McKinsey & Company (, February 2011), marked by the rise of global hubs enjoying a nexus of economic and political power, beyond the previous world order of nation-states. According to the World Economic Forum, four numbers define the importance of cities: 2, 50, 75 and 80. Cities occupy 2% of the world’s surface, but they are host up to 50% of the world’s population, are responsible for 75% of global energy consumption and 80% of CO2 emissions (, December 2016). Cities are both clusters of economic productivity and concentrations of social problems and inequalities. Cities are often test beds for innovative, risky or controversial approaches to social and environmental problems. Changes in cities and how cities are managed have a major global impact.


Yet there is a great disconnect between city/urban governance research and practice. According to a study, the constraints and challenges faced by urban governance as viewed by academics and activists are vastly at variance with urban managers (da Cruz, Rode & McQuarrie, 2019). Of most concern to the former are issues of citizen participation, political engagement, institutional shortcomings and capacity constraints. To the latter, the most often cited challenges are insufficient public budgets, politicization of local issues, complexity of urban problems, and maladapted or outdated policy silos caused by inflexible bureaucracies and rigid rules. Both the ‘democracy’ side as well as the ‘administrative’ side issues have to be confronted in order to deal with the political and technocratic facets of urban governance.


Housing and transport are highly pertinent to urban living and well-being. They directly determine the degree of spatial (in)equality and mobility, that in turn affects the distribution of resources and incomes. Based on his experience and insight as Secretary for Transport and Housing, this speaker will highlight some issues in the housing and transport policy areas in Hong Kong to illustrate the intricacies of urban governance spanning both the administrative and political sides. The crucial role of the state and public interventions is explored within a rapidly-changing context where globalization, increasing inequalities, planning politics, local populism/NIMBYism, climate change and rapid technological development are the key disrupting forces.


Nuno F. da Cruz, Philipp Rode & Michael McQuarrie (2019) New urban governance: A review of current themes and future priorities, Journal of Urban Affairs, 41:1, 1-19, DOI: 10.1080/07352166.2018.1499416



Biography of speaker


Prof Anthony Cheung


Prof. Anthony Cheung

Research Chair Professor of Public Administration, Education University of Hong Kong;


Former Secretary for Transport and Housing, HKSAR Government (2012-17)

Professor Anthony B. L. Cheung is currently the Research Chair Professor of Public Administration at the Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) and Adjunct Professor at the Division of Public Policy of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His research has focused on governance, public administration and public policy, producing over 100 refereed journal articles and book chapters, and over 10 authored/edited books, as well as numerous conference papers.


From July 2012 to June 2017, Professor Cheung was Secretary for Transport and Housing of the Hong Kong SAR Government and, in that capacity, Chairman of the Hong Kong Housing Authority, Chairman of the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board, Chairman of the Hong Kong Logistics Development Council as well as board member of the Hong Kong Airport Authority and Mass Transit Railway Corporation. From 2008 to 2012, he was the President of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, now EdUHK.


Professor Cheung was active in public affairs. During 1995-97, he was a Member of the Legislative Council. He was chairman of the political group Meeting Point (1989-94) and a founding vice-chairman of the Democratic Party (1994-98). He also founded an independent think-tank SynergyNet in 2002. Over the years, he has served in various major public service positions including: Non-Official Member of the Executive Council (2005-2012); Chairman of the Hong Kong Consumer Council (2007-2012); Chairman of the Pay Trend Survey Committee (2007); Board member of Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation (2007-17); Member of the Consultative Committee on the New Airport and Related Projects (1991-98); Member of the Task Force on Review of Civil Service Salaries and Conditions (2002); and Member of the ICAC Operations Review Committee (2005-07). Since stepping down from ministerial office, Professor Cheung has been appointed since November 2017 as Chairman of the Committee on Self-financing Post-secondary Education, and Member of the Education Commission and the University Grants Committee. He chaired a government task force to review self-financing post-secondary education in 2017-18.



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