Cross-border families from mainland China often receive inaccurate information about Hong Kong’s education and migration policies, according to a study from the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU)’s Department of Education Studies. This leads them to underestimate the challenges they would face after settling in the city, researchers say.

The report released on Wednesday said that many of the mainland parents interviewed gave birth in Hong Kong to evade China’s One-Child Policy, which was formally relaxed in 2013. However, owing to a lack of understanding of local policies, families struggle to adapt to the city: “Owing to their non-resident status, cross-border families are most challenged in areas of income, housing, school place for children, visa, family separation, and social support,” it read.

education kid child school
Photo: GovHK.

Funded by the Equal Opportunities Commission, the research was conducted from January to May last year between 28 low-income China-Hong Kong cross-border families. Five monthly visits were paid to each family and one in-depth, semi-structured interview took place between a parent and child in each family.

In 2001, the Court of Final Appeal ruled in favour of Chong Fung Yuen, who was born in Hong Kong in 1997, granting Chinese nationals who were like him born in the city, right of abode. Between 2003 and 2011, the number of babies born in the city to mainland women whose partners were not Hong Kong permanent residents skyrocketed from 2,070 to 35,736,  according to government statistics.

‘Negative social ethos’

HKBU said that interviewees often felt excluded from government social provisions in Hong Kong, and discriminated against by society.

“The general negative social ethos of Hong Kong [people] against Mainlanders also discourages the cross-border families from building up their sense of belonging to Hong Kong,” the report read, adding that parents feel they can offer little support to their children, in part because of their lack of knowledge of the local education system and their own “low education level.”

students hong kong education
File Photo: Stand News.

This, HKBU said, can lead to family tensions because children’s academic performance does not live up to their parent’s expectations.

HKBU made several recommendations in light of their findings, including asking social service providers to ensure no child is denied access to resources on the grounds of the residency status of their mainland parents; revising the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme to cover Hong Kong-born mainland children; and granting temporary work permits to low-income cross-border parents.

Kong Tsung-gan‘s new collection of essays – narrative, journalistic, documentary, analytical, polemical, and philosophical – trace the fast-paced, often bewildering developments in Hong Kong since the 2014 Umbrella Movement. As Long As There Is Resistance, There Is Hope is available exclusively through HKFP with a min. HK$200 donation. Thanks to the kindness of the author, 100 per cent of your payment will go to HKFP’s critical 2019 #PressForFreedom Funding Drive.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.