Melody Li Ornellas
When a Wife is a Visitor:
Mainland Chinese Marriage Migration, Citizenship, and Activism in Hong Kong
Contemporary studies of citizenship and migration have increasingly paid attention to the role of noncitizens and migrants as social actors, highlighting their agency in “enacting” (Nyers and Rygiel 2012) themselves as political subjects to negotiate rights and belonging, despite lacking legal status or political membership. This talk examines the complexity of politics, power, and agency involved in the individual and collective experiences of a group of marriage migrant women from mainland China in negotiating their rights and belonging in Hong Kong.
The migrant wives in question are allowed to live temporarily in Hong Kong as “visitors” by utilizing family visit permits which must be periodically renewed in mainland China. These women are denied -- or have highly restricted -- social rights and public resources during their periods of stay in Hong Kong while awaiting “formal” immigration. This talk focuses on these “visitor-wives” and their local husbands’ struggles for the right to give birth, amid the government’s implementation of increasingly stringent policies aimed to block the influx of non-local expectant mothers from giving birth in Hong Kong. It discusses both state and societal obstacles faced by such couples and their strategies of resistance through collective actions.
Women’s political and subjective experiences of redefining their state-imposed “visitor” status and claims-making suggest that citizenship is best understood as a process that is negotiated through the efforts of individuals and collective groups to redefine its terms and conditions, but this process is shaped by larger sociopolitical conditions.
Location and Address