The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Photo of Elton Chan by Emma Lord.

Elton Chan

Doctoral student

Photo of Elton Chan by Emma Lord.

Reclaiming the Right to the City : De-commodification of Shopping Malls in Insurgent Hong Kong


  • Elton Chan

Summary, in English

According to Lefebvre, modern capitalism has led to the commodification of urban life. Even though commodification has taken multiple distinct forms across the urban fabric, it could be argued that no urban feature is more representative of the proliferation of exchange values than shopping malls. Despite being privately owned and managed, commercialised and highly securitised, shopping malls have become an important part of the urban fabric, especially in East Asian urban centres such as Hong Kong and Tokyo. While shopping malls have, in many ways, replaced traditional public spaces as the main spaces of recreation and social interaction for most urban dwellers, this paper contends that the recent protest movement in Hong Kong has resulted in a transformation of the role of shopping malls. As the protests became decentralised and filtered throughout the city, shopping malls have not only become places of temporary refuge for the protesters, they have also turned into battlegrounds and sites of protests themselves. Riot police has occasionally stormed inside shopping malls, while protesters have organised sit-ins and created Lennon Walls, targeting building management offices that have cooperated with the police and shops with ties to China. By exercising their right to the city, protesters and their supporters have made a point of using the shopping malls in a wide variety of ways without taking part in the commercial activities. Based on information gathered through media reports, planning and policy documents, as well as ethnographic observations, this paper aims to examine the role of shopping malls in urban development, the changing public perception towards them, and how the de-commodification of shopping malls may represent the first step of people taking back control of the city.


  • Sociology

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper: abstract


  • Sociology

Conference name

50th Annual Conference of the Urban Affairs Association

Conference date

2022-04-12 - 2022-04-14

Conference place

Washington, DC, United States