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I can understand that altitudes may be "by ATC", but why can a route also be marked with "by ATC"? All SID routes need prior clearance by ATC, right?

For example, in SID RWY 16 for ZGSZ/SZX, MEPOG-7X and LKC-7X are "by ATC", while others are not. I know that LKC-7X is not a regular route flown, but still: what does "by ATC" mean here?

enter image description here (Source: ZGSZ AD 2.24-7F, AIP China)

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It means, don't file that transition yourself. ATC may assign it, but it's their option to assign it or leave you on what you filed.

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