Belonging beyond the deficit label: The experiences of 'non-Chinese speaking' minority students in Hong Kong

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How migrants, refugees and minority groups acquire a sense of belonging in their adopted society is a concern for nations worldwide as they aim to balance the diversity and inclusion of growing numbers of migrants with ensuring harmony and cohesion across society. In postcolonial Hong Kong, the population diversity is accompanied with a swift change in the racialisation of Hong Kong where minorities in schools find themselves categorised as 'non-Chinese speaking' ('NCS') rather than a 'Hongkonger'. The NCS label stigmatises young people as linguistically and academically deficit, de-legitimises acceptance by the local Chinese, Cantonese speaking majority designated as 'Hongkongers'. Yet how minority youth interpret their status as 'NCS' and negotiate belonging in Hong Kong has received scant attention. This qualitative study is a substantive and theoretical contribution to the literature on how multilingual minorities can construct a positive sense of place-belonging to their adopted city. Reflecting the contentious nature of the politics of belonging, we found that students challenged and sought to redefine the narrow, prevailing identity of a 'Hongkonger'. Rather, they stressed their multilingual identity, historical affiliations, emotional attachments and place-belongingness to the city in order to legitimate their entitlement to sociopolitical belonging in Hong Kong. Copyright © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-197
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number3
Early online dateJul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019



Gao, F., Lai, C., & Halse, C. (2019). Belonging beyond the deficit label: The experiences of 'non-Chinese speaking' minority students in Hong Kong. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 40(3), 186-197. doi: 10.1080/01434632.2018.1497042


  • Belonging
  • 'Non-Chinese speaking' ('NCS')
  • 'International multilinguals'
  • Hong Kong