OMNES : The Journal of multicultural society
[ Special Issue ]
OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.1-34
ISSN: 2093-5498 (Print)
Print publication date Jan 2016
Received 15 Nov 2015 Revised 10 Dec 2015 Accepted 14 Dec 2015

On the Social Integration of Chinese Immigrants in Post-handover Hong Kong: Rethinking the Making of the Hong Kong Person

Beatrice Oi-yeung Lam
Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong


As China-Hong Kong integration deepens, a local identity asserted to be culturally superior to and exclusive of the mainland Chinese is mobilized in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). This paper contributes to the attendant debates by presenting a unique case of politics of belonging therein, where “cultural” differences are constructed, increasingly so in “ethnic” terms, amid processes of internal migration. I discuss how the hegemonic discourse of local belonging is a corollary of the “neoliberal governmentality” of the city-state. It defines the parameters of social inclusion in terms of labor market integration and in particular contribution to the global economy. The underlying class assumptions are reflected in the exclusion from local belonging of Chinese immigrants, whose long-standing socioeconomic marginalization is conflated with, and glossed over by their constructed cultural inferiority. Such assumptions are also gendered, as Chinese immigrant mothers struggle to participate as worker-citizens in the society and to make claims for their “deservingness” to belong. On this basis, I argue that the “cultural” differences between mainlanders and Hongkongers should be better understood as constituted not by “ethnic” differences but by the way class and gender differentiate access to participation and belonging. Implications for the SAR are discussed.


China-Hong Kong relations, Hong Kong identity, Mainland Chinese immigrant women, citizenship, politics of belonging, class and gender


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Biographical Note

Beatrice Oi-Yeung Lam Beatrice Oi-Yeung Lam completed her PhD in the University of Manchester and is Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She is interested in studying processes of social stratification in schooling, family, and beyond. Other areas of expertise include gender studies, migration, and Hong Kong