‘Let your child win at the starting line’: Hong Kong’s Education System as a Desired Destination

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Conveners: SIAS, China Centre, Oriental Studies

Speaker: Avital Binah-Pollak, M.A. (Tel Aviv University)

More than one-third of all marriages registered in Hong Kong in recent years are between local men and mainland Chinese women. This talk focuses on the women’s motivations for migrating across border. Based on ethnographic work, Avital Binah-Pollak shows that the child and their future play an important role in the women’s decision to permanently migrate to Hong Kong and to continue residing in Hong Kong despite the difficulties they experience. The women did not only view Hong Kong as a symbol of “quality,” they perceived Hong Kong’s education system as a desired destination. Yet, in the eyes of many Hongkongers, the children are seen as a threat to Hong Kong’s unique identity and future. The flow of tourists and immigrants did not result in the embracing of the Chinese nationalistic discourse. On the contrary, many Hongkongers have sought to be more segregated and their desire to differentiate themselves from mainland China has grown. 

Avital Binah-Pollak is currently a research fellow at the Department for European Ethnology at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. She completed her PhD in September 2016 at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University. Her dissertation focused on cross-border marriages between mainland Chinese women and Hong Kong men. Avital Binah-Pollak is a socio-cultural anthropologist with an emphasis on gender, migration, boundaries, and education in contemporary China and Hong Kong.  Her research is based on ethnographic work conducted in Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.