Civic Stratification Within Cross-Border Families: Mainland Chinese Children and Wives in Hong Kong


  • Clara Wai-chun To The Education University of Hong Kong



The extant literature on family-related migration has examined the civic stratification of the right to family reunification of citizens and non-citizens and the citizenship rights of their reunited family members. However, civic stratification amongst immigrant family members has received less attention. Accordingly, the current study highlights the significance of immigration status and social reproduction in the hierarchisation of the residency and social rights of Mainland Chinese children and spouses within cross-border families in Hong Kong, particularly since the policy changes in 2003. This study asserts that children are valued as prospective contributory citizens, and thus, they are afforded preferential treatment over spouses, who are mostly women, whose contribution to the reproduction of family and society are undervalued by central and local states.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Clara Wai-chun To, The Education University of Hong Kong

Clara Wai-chun To is Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Sciences, The Education University of Hong Kong


Baark, E. and So, A. Y. (2006). "The political economy of Hong Kong's quest for high technology Innovation". Journal of Contemporary Asia, 36 (1): 102-120.

Bhabha, J. (2009). "The 'mere fortuity of birth?': Children, borders, and the right to citizenship". In S. Benhabib and J. Resnick (Eds.), Migrations and Mobilities: Citizenship, Borders, and Gender (pp. 187-227). New York, NY: NYU Press.

Bonizzoni, P. (2011). "Civic stratification, stratified reproduction and family solidarity: Strategies of Latino families in Milan". In A. Kraler, E. Kofman, M. Kohli, and C. Schmoll (Eds.), Gender, Generations and the Family in International Migration (pp. 311-335). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Bonizzoni, P. (2015). "Uneven paths: Latin American women facing Italian family reunification policies". Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41 (12): 2001-2020.

Bonjour, S. and Kraler A. (2015). "Introduction: Family migration as an integration issue? Policy perspectives and academic insights". Journal of Family Issues, 36 (11): 1407-1432.

Census and Statistics Department. (2012). Thematic report: Persons from the Mainland having resided in Hong Kong for less than seven years. Retrieved from:

Chan, W. S. (2011). Mobile mothering: Women on two-way permit in Hong Kong (Master thesis). The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong.

Chao, A. (2004). "Imagined modernities, transnational migration, and border control: A case study of Taiwan's Mainland brides". Taiwanese Journal of Sociology, 32: 59-102. (in Chinese).

Chao, A. (2005). "Household registration, social-welfare resources and border control: A case study of regulating Mainland spouses in Taiwan". Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies, 59: 43-90.

Chee, H. L., Lu, C.W. M & Yeoh, S.A. B. (2014). "Ethnicity, Citizenship and Reproduction: Taiwanese Wives Making Citizenship Claims in Malaysia". Citizenship Studies, 18 (8): 823-838.

Chief Secretary for Administration's Office. (2015). Population policy: Strategies and initiatives. Hong Kong: Government Logistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. Retrieved from:

Chou, K. L. (2013). "Familial effect on child poverty in Hong Kong immigrant families". Social indicators research, 113 (1), 183-195.

Dauvergne, C. (2009). "Globalizing fragmentation: New pressures on women caught in the immigration law-citizenship law dichotomy". In S. Benhabib, and J. Resnik (Eds.), Migration and mobilities: Citizenship, borders and gender (pp. 333-355). New York: NYU Press.

Department of Health, HKSAR (2018). Child health. Retrieved from:

Dobrowolsky, A. Z., and Jenson, J. (2004). "Shifting representations of citizenship: Canadian politics of 'women' and 'children'". Social Politics, 11 (2): 154-180.

Erel, U. (2011). "Reframing migrant mothers as citizens". Citizenship Studies, 15 (6-7): 695-709.

Erel, U., and Reynolds, T. (2018). "Introduction: Migrant mothers challenging racialized citizenship". Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41 (1): 1-16.

Fresnoza-Flot, A. (2017). "Beyond migration patterns—understanding family reunion decisions of Filipino labour and Thai marriage migrants in global reproductive systems". Migration Studies, 6 (2): 205-224.

Friedman, S. L. (2010). "Marital immigration and graduated citizenship: Post-naturalization restrictions on mainland Chinese spouses in Taiwan". Pacific Affairs, 83 (1): 73-93.

Glenn, E. N. (1992). "From servitude to service work. Historical continuities in the racial division of paid reproductive work". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 18 (1): 1–43.

Herrera, G. (2013). "Gender and international migration: Contributions and cross-fertilizations". Annual Review of Sociology, 39: 471-489.

Hong Kong Housing Authority (2015). Application guide for public rental housing. Retrieved from:

Hospital Authority. 2018. Fees and charges. Retrieved from:

Jones, G., and Shen, H. H. (2008). "International marriage in East and Southeast Asia: Trends and research emphases". Citizenship studies, 12 (1): 9-25.

Jongwilaiwan, R, and Thompson, E. C. (2013). "Thai wives in Singapore and transnational patriarchy". Gender, Place & Culture, 20 (3): 363-381.

Kim, M. (2013). "Citizenship projects for marriage migrants in South Korea: Intersecting motherhood with ethnicity and class". Social Politics, 20 (4): 455-481.

Kim, G., and Kilkey, M. (2016). "Marriage migration policy as a social reproduction system: The South Korean experience". In M. Kilkey, and E. Palenga-Möllenbeck (Eds.), Family Life in an Age of Migration and Mobility: Global Perspectives through the Life Course (pp. 137-161). London, GB: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kofman, E. (2004). "Family-Related migration: A critial review of European studies". Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 30 (2): 243–262.

Kofman, E. (2012). "Rethinking care through social reproduction: Articulating circuits of migration". Social Politics, 19 (1): 142-162.

Kofman, E. (2018). "Family migration as a class matter". International Migration, 56 (4): 33-46.

Könönen, J. (2018). "Differential inclusion of non-citizens in a universalistic welfare state". Citizenship Studies, 22 (1): 53-69.

Kraler, A. (2010). Civic Stratification, Gender and Family Migration Policies in Europe. Final Report. Vienna: Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research (Bmwf) and International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). Retrieved from:

Kraler, A., Kofman, E., Kohli, M., and Schmoll, C. (2011). "Issues and debates on family-related migration and the migrant family: A European perspective". In Gender, generations and the family in international migration (pp. 13-54). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Lam, K, and Liu, P. (1998). Immigration and the Economy of Hong Kong, Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press.

Lan, P. (2008). "Migrant women's bodies as boundary markers: Reproductive crisis and sexual Control in the ethnic frontiers of Taiwan". Signs, 33 (4): 833-861.

Law, K., and Lee, K. (2006). "Citizenship, economy and social exclusion of mainland Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong". Journal of Contemporary Asia, 36 (2): 217-242.

Lee, H. (2012). "Political economy of cross-border marriage: Economic development and social reproduction in Korea". Feminist Economics, 18 (2): 177-200.

Legislative Council Secretariat. (2012a). Application for One Way Permit by Mainland "Overage Children" of Hong Kong Residents. LC Paper No. CB(2)2207/11-12(02). Paper Submitted to the Subcommittee to Study Issues Relating to Mainland-HKSAR Families, Hong Kong Legislative Council.

Legislative Council Secretariat. (2012b). Use of Obstetric Services by Non-local Women. LC Paper No. CB(2)1863/11-12(02). Paper Submitted to the Panel on Health Services, Hong Kong Legislative Council.

Leung, H. (2004). "Politics of incorporation and exclusion: Immigration and citizenship issues". In: A. S. Ku, and N. Pun (eds.), Remaking Citizenship in Hong Kong: Community, Nation and the Global City (pp. 87-102). London: Routledge.

Leung, L. C., Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres, and Tin Shui Wai Community Development Network. (2013). Child Care Support for Low-income Families in Hong Kong: A Research Report (in Chinese). Hong Kong: Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres, and Tin Shui Wai Community Development Network. Retrieved from:

Leung, M. (2016). "'One country, two systems', 'one city, two systems': Citizenship as a stage for politics of mobility and bordering practices in Hong Kong". Migration Letters, 13 (1): 49-63.

Morris, L. (2003). "Managing contradiction: civic stratification and migrants' rights". International migration review, 37 (1): 74-100.

Newendorp, N. D. (2008). Uneasy Reunions: Immigration, Citizenship, and Family Life in Post-1997 Hong Kong. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Ornellas, M. L. (2014). When a Wife is a Visitor: Mainland Chinese Marriage Migration, Citizenship, and Activism in Hong Kong. PhD dissertation, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.

Pun, N., and Wu, K. M. (2004). "Lived citizenship and lower-class Chinese migrant Women". In A. S. Ku, and N. Pun (Eds.), Remaking Citizenship in Hong Kong: Community, Nation and the Global City (pp. 125-138). London: Routledge.

Qvortrup, J. (2005). "Varieties of childhood". In: J. Qvortrup (ed.), Studies in modern childhood (pp. 1-20). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Ria-o, Y. (2011). "Drawing new boundaries of participation: Experiences and strategies of economic citizenship among skilled migrant women in Switzerland". Environment and Planning A, 43 (7): 1530-1546.

Ruhs, M. (2013). The price of rights: Regulating international labor migration. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Rytter, M. (2012). "Semi-legal Family Life: Pakistani Couples in the Borderlands of Denmark and Sweden". Global Networks, 12 (1): 91–108.

Salcido, O., and Menjívar, C. (2012). "Gendered paths to legal citizenship: The case of Latin-American immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona". Law & Society Review, 46 (2): 335-368.

Saraceno, C. (2015). "A critical look to the social investment approach from a gender perspective". Social Politics, 22 (2): 257-269.

Schweitzer, R. (2015). "A stratified right to family life? On the logic (s) and legitimacy of granting differential access to family reunification for third-country nationals living within the EU". Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41 (13): 2130-2148.

Security Bureau. 2014. Immigration Arrangement for Entry of Mainland Residents for Family Reunion. LC Paper No. CB(2)775/13-14(03). Paper Submitted to the Subcommittee to Study Issues Relating to Mainland-HKSAR Families, Hong Kong Legislative Council.

Siu, Y. M. (1996). "Population and immigration: With a special account on Chinese mmigrants". In M. Nyaw, and S. Li (Eds.), The other Hong Kong Report 1996 (pp. 325-347). Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

Social Welfare Department (2015). A guide to Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. Retrieved from:

Staver, A. (2015). "Hard Work for Love: The economic drift in Norwegian family immigration and integration policies". Journal of Family Issues, 36 (11): 1453-1471.

Steering Committee on Population Policy. (2012). Steering committee on population policy progress report 2012. Hong Kong: Government Logistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. Retrieved from:

Sullivan, M. J. (2014). "Legalizing parents and other caregivers: A family immigration policy guided by a public ethic of care". Social Politics, 23 (2): 263-283.

Tan, E. K. (2008). "A union of gender equality and pragmatic patriarchy: International marriages and citizenship laws in Singapore". Citizenship Studies, 12 (1): 73-89.

Task Force of Population Policy (2003). The Report of the Task Force on Population Policy. Retrieved from:

Tong, T. (2004). "Hong Kong's Immigration Policy on Persons from Mainland China". In J. Chan, and B. Rwezaura (Eds.), Immigration Law in Hong Kong: An Interdisciplinary Study (pp. 59-74). Hong Kong: Sweet and Maxwell Asia.

Turner, B. S. (2008). "Citizenship, reproduction and the state: International marriage and human rights". Citizenship Studies, 12 (1): 45-54.

Van Walsum, S. (2013). "The contested meaning of care in migration Law". Ragion Pratica, 2013 (2): 451-470.

Wang, H., and Bélanger, D. (2008). "Taiwanizing female immigrant spouses and materializing differential citizenship". Citizenship Studies, 12 (1): 91-106.

Yang, W., and Lee P. (2009). "The citizenship dilemma of Mainlander spouses in Taiwan: The conspiracy of nationalism and patriarchy". Taiwan Democracy Quarterly, 6 (3): 47-86. (in Chinese)




How to Cite

To, C. W.- chun. (2019). Civic Stratification Within Cross-Border Families: Mainland Chinese Children and Wives in Hong Kong. Migration Letters, 16(2), 301–316.