Scholars from Canada, the U.S., and Hong Kong discussed return migration at “Home Sweet Home: Return Migration to Hong Kong and its Implications,” a conference held on February 17 at the Canada Hong Kong Library and organized by the Asian Institute at U of T.
The conference attracted a crowd of professionals and students with different ethnic backgrounds. During the discussion, the scholars shared their views on the study of return immigrants from different perspectives, and introduced to the audience various scholarly work they have completed. Some scholars believe that in Hong Kong’s case, the political reason (the handover of Hong Kong, a former British colony, back to China) prompted many to migrant overseas in the early 1990s. In recent years, many of them returned to Hong Kong for economic reasons, after seeing Hong Kong’s close financial link with the mainland China.
While some claimed that return migrants, equipped with experiences from abroad, would gain an edge in the job market, others pointed out that these movers might find it difficult to integrate themselves into the local community after returning to their home country.
The audience seemed most interested when the scholars, some of whom were return migrants themselves, shared their personal stories. At the end of the conference, some attendees expressed their concerns that no scholars touched on the question whether return migrants would become more active in political participation. The scholars agreed that there is so much more to explore in this field of study.
Having deep connections with Hong Kong since conducting research in the city in the 1960s, Janet Salaff, U of T Emeritus Professor in Sociology, released Hong Kong Movers and Stayers: Narratives of Family Migration, a new book she co-authored with two other scholars, at the conference. The book explores the issue of family migration through various real life stories.
“Not many people are studying return migrants, and we are doing it at the U of T because we have personal mobility of people to interview,” Salaff said, when asked about the study of return migrants at U of T. “We are also doing a study on the U of T alumni in Hong Kong, and we were interviewing there about why people returned to Hong Kong, and what their experiences are. I think it’s a very rich field, because there are so many Chinese in Canada, and many of them are at the U of T. I think there’re a lot of things that we can learn by talking to our own students.”