Academic journal article Migration Letters

'One Country, Two Systems', 'One City, Two Systems': Citizenship as a Stage for Politics of Mobility and Bordering Practices in Hong Kong

Academic journal article Migration Letters

'One Country, Two Systems', 'One City, Two Systems': Citizenship as a Stage for Politics of Mobility and Bordering Practices in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

Introduction

There are no other contexts where politics of mobility play out as forcefully as at the national border, where immigration policies regulate the entry of individuals. Borders remind us of the pitfalls of imaginarles such as the flat (Friedman, 2006) or borderless world (Ohmae, 1999) propagated by some. Hows and circulations of people, goods, capital, ideas etc. that characterize our globalizing world are uneven and do not produce a levelled playing field. Underlining the power geometry in mobility, Massey (1993) introduced the notion of 'politics of mobility' to capture the fact that: Some are more in charge of it than others; some initiate flows and movement, others don Y; some are more on the receiving end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it (p. 6).

Borders are the execution sites of the politics of mobility. Borders carry contrasting meanings - from liberation to life threat - to different individuals, depending on their positionality in the migration regime and broader political, social and economic structure. As scholars in contemporary border stuthes have emphasized in the past two decades, borders should not be conceptualized only as physical lines of separation between countries or other administrative units; rather, the social dimension of borders - as axes of diverse forms of inclusion and exclusion - deserve examination and critical reflections (Newman, 2006; van Houtum, H. and van Naerssen, 2002). In addition to recognizing the multidimensional and situated nature of borders, Bauder (2011) recently emphasizes the need to 'engage in the dialectic of the border concept', by which he underlines the dialectic relations between and among the multiple material practices and meanings or discursive constructedness of the border. Everyday border practices (or 'bordering' as a process), therefore, are also performed by actors and institutions other than those engaged directly in border controls and the immigration regime. In the context of migration, for instance, material and discursive borders are erected and contested, regulating inclusion and exclusion in a whole array of social fields ranging from education, job and housing markets.

Through the lenses of politics of mobility and the border (as multidimensional and situated), this paper analyses the peculiar, controversial and discriminatory immigration regime in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (hereafter, PRC or Mainland China). While being a part of China, Hong Kong is separated from the Mainland with an administrative border. This paper maps out the discriminatory power of this quasi-national border in regulating immigration between Hong Kong and China Mainland. A critical analysis of the bordering practices illustrates the power geometry of mobility as governed by the citizenship policies, practices and discourse in Hong Kong. A comparison of the positions held by Mainland Chinese migrants with skills and/or capital and those from lower economic background trying to join their families in Hong Kong will be provided for illustration.

Hong Kong is one of the world's major finance and trading centres. It has historically been a hub for migrants with constant, at times massive, outflow and inflow of people. By far, the largest source of in-migrants is Mainland China, followed by the Philippines, Indonesia (both of which the origins of the majority of domestic workers in Hong Kong) and India (Hong Kong SAR Government, 2014 - 'Immigration'). Despite its relative ethnic homogeneity (almost 97% ethnic Chinese according to the 2011 census (Census and Statistics Department, 2015)) - but justified by the city's key position in the global economy, the Hong Kong SAR Government has branded the territory 'Asia's world city'. In this narrative, Hong Kong is described as 'an open, tolerant and pluralistic community, and a city rich in culture and tradition', 'China and Asia's most cosmopolitan city', 'a melting pot of nations and a place where you will find the best of East and West'. …

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