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

Ling Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-52
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Chinese Studies
Early online date29 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2021

User-Defined Keywords

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


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