Border policies, family configurations and differential mobility: The case of Chinese cross-border students

Kit Wa Anita CHAN, Lok Sun Lucille NGAN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Recent studies of migration adopt the lens of mobility to examine the stratifying effects of border policies, but few investigate the differential mobility of migrant families and children. This paper addresses this gap by considering the interplay between border policies, diverse family configurations and differential mobility. We apply the lens of differential mobility to the experiences of Chinese cross-border pupils –young children migrants with Hong Kong permanent residency who reside in Shenzhen, China and cross the national border to attend school. The paper has two parts. We first discuss how the particular mixture of restrictions, exclusions, and liberalisation in Hong Kong’s border and immigration policies since 1997 have created a typology of families differentiated by mixed status, citizenship rights, and mobility. Then we turn to case studies of four students with unequal border-crossing experiences to elucidate how border control constrains or promotes family mobility and perpetuates inequalities. Our argument is that although all of the children in our study had open mobility to Hong Kong as cross-border students, they had very different experiences of this mobility based on their family constraints within this typology. Our analysis clearly indicates that, in addition to socio-economic differences, mobility is ‘a crucial dimension of unequal power relations’ among and within families that create stratified challenges for children (Hannam, Sheller and Urry 2006, 3.)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017



Chan, A. K. W., & Ngan, L. L. S. (2017, June). Border policies, family configurations and differential mobility: The case of Chinese cross-border students. Paper presented at the Nordic Geographers Meeting (NGM) 2017: Geographies of inequalities, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.