Cross-Border Families in Hong Kong

The Role of Social Class and Politics

Author: Alvin Y. So

Abstract:

The massive relocation of industrial activities from Hong Kong to mainland China that followed in the wake of China's acceptance of foreign investment has given rise to two different sets of cross-border familial relations. In the first case, middle-class managers and technicians from Hong Kong have taken “second wives” during their stay in southern China. Hong Kong's mass media have been generally tolerant of this second-wife phenomenon, seeing it merely as a case of funglau (sexually potency), justifying it in terms of middle-class men's “soft spot,” and blaming the first wives for neglecting their duties. In the second case, workers from Hong Kong have crossed into the mainland in search of spouses because they believe that women in China are more affordable than those in Hong Kong. Hong Kong's restrictive immigration policies result in these mainland wives and children having to wait for ten years or more before receiving a one-way permit to migrate to Hong Kong. When they do arrive in Hong Kong, they have been discriminated against and condemned as causing Hong Kong's social and economic problems. This article examines how social class and politics have affected the way in which the mass media and the Hong Kong government have dealt with these two sets of cross-border families.
Regions: East Asia
Countries: China | Hong Kong

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December 2003
© 2002 ILO/Crozet M.