British Journal of Chinese Studies

dragon mural beijing 2018 copyright Gerda Wielander
Vol 11 (2021)

Guarding the Space In-between: The Quandary of Being a Liberal Mainland Student Migrant in Hong Kong

Ling Tang
Hong Kong Baptist University
Kai Tak Cruise Terminal with fishing boat and figure in foreground
Published June 29, 2021
How to Cite
Tang, L. (2021). Guarding the Space In-between. British Journal of Chinese Studies, 11, 36-52.


Based on eight in-depth interviews, this article analyses the quandary faced by liberal mainland Chinese student migrants in Hong Kong. On the one hand, the liberal pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong are deeply intertwined with the rise of localism, which is based on a dichotomy between Hong Kong and mainland China. On the other hand, a rising, development-centric nationalism in mainland China reduces Hong Kong protesters to unemancipated British colonial subjects. However, in the context of this “double marginalisation,” liberal Mainland students guard a form of liberalism that transcends both Hong Kong localism and Chinese nationalism. They debunk the stereotype of mainland Chinese students being apolitical and therefore provide an alternative definition of being Chinese. They challenge the view that mainland Chinese can only be emancipated outside mainland China to destabilise a Fukuyamian linear interpretation of history. They use four tactics to cope with double marginalisation: understanding localists, befriending expatriates, assuming professionalism, and becoming apolitical.

Image © Ling Tang

  • Hong Kong,
  • China,
  • Hong Kong-mainland conflict,
  • liberalism,
  • identity politics,
  • student migration
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