Hong Kongers and the coloniality of British citizenship from decolonisation to ‘Global Britain’

Benson, Michaela (2021) Hong Kongers and the coloniality of British citizenship from decolonisation to ‘Global Britain’. Current Sociology. ISSN 0011-3921

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In this paper, I advance understandings of the coloniality of British citizenship through the close examination of the status of the people of Hong Kong in Britain’s immigration and nationality legislation, a case overlooked in most social scientific analysis of Britain’s citizenship-migration nexus. The paper responds to Gurminder Bhambra’s (2015) call to recognise the connected sociologies and histories of citizenship, the analysis informed by the close reading of historical changes in legislation—from decolonisation and the making of the British nation-state to the post-Brexit construction of ‘Global Britain’—and what these meant for the people of Hong Kong. In dialogue with scholarship focused on the enduring colonial ties in present-day citizenship and migration regimes, I offer an analysis inspired by Manuela Boatcă’s (2021a) coloniality of citizenship and Ann Laura Stoler’s (2016) understanding of exception by design, imperial forms of governance producing differential rights within national populations that positioned some populations as ambiguous. Conceptualising the status Hong Kongers in British legislation past and present as ambiguous by design, I question what the rhetoric of the Hong Kongers as ‘good migrants’ for global Britain’ at the heart of the promotion of the bespoke Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) (HK BN(O)) visa launched early 2021 conceals from view. As I argue, rather than a case apart in the context of increasingly restrictive immigration controls, the renewal of Britain’s obligations, commitments, and responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong through this visa scheme provide further evidence of the enduring colonial entanglements in the formation of ‘Global Britain’ and its citizenship-migration nexus.

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Journal Article
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Current Sociology
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20 Aug 2021 14:30
Last Modified:
26 May 2022 23:41