How Family Policies Redefine Families: The Case of Mainland China-Hong Kong Cross-Border Families

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


China’s one-child policy represents an unprecedented extreme state control on population, transforming China’s family structure. When the policy was in place, from 1979 to 2015, Chinese parents who desired more children used different ways to evade this policy. One such way was tourism birth in Hong Kong. From 2003 to 2012, about 200,000 babies were born in Hong Kong to Mainland Chinese parents until a ban was enforced to bar Mainland women from giving birth in Hong Kong. Through the experiences of pregnant Mainland Chinese women crossing the border to give birth in Hong Kong, this paper seeks to explore the impact of childbirth policy, migration regulations and welfare provision on family practices.

Data are drawn on ethnographic research between 2012 and 2018 with 45 low-income families wherein the mothers stay on temporary visas to take care of their Hong Kong-born children who go to school in Hong Kong.
Findings reveal that the way that these parents come to terms with family-making is filled with contradictions between family-related policies and Asian traditional family values – one-child policy that disregards gender vs cultural preference to have sons to perpetuate the family line; migration regimes separating parents and child vs cultural ideal of an intact family; welfare policies that stigmatize the parents as irresponsible vs social practice of families as care provider. Building on theories of biopolitics and migration infrastructure, this paper discusses how these competing forces challenge the well-being of transnational families and how the families understand and address these challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2019
EventFamily Policies in Asia - National University of Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 21 Nov 201922 Nov 2019


ConferenceFamily Policies in Asia
Internet address


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