Can Hong Kong be home for sub-Saharan African asylum seekers?

Streaming Media


The Chinese in Africa / Africans in China Research Network Conference Organising Committee in collaboration with the Centre for Cultural Research and Development at the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong; and the Institute for Emerging Markets Studies at HKUST.

Event Title

CAAC2021 8th Online Mini-symposium : Can Hong Kong Be Home?

Document Type





9:00 p.m.


Online Session via Zoom


This paper, based on a weekly class that I have taught for the past 15 years, explores whether African asylum seekers can ever consider Hong Kong as “home.” Sub-Saharan Africans in general in Hong Kong have long reported incidents of racial discrimination. Asylum seekers have experienced this all the more because they are forbidden to work, and are seen as beggars (“without money in Hong Kong, you’re nothing,” I’m often told). Some work anyway, but run the risk of two years in jail if they are caught. The only way that an African asylum seeker can legally remain in Hong Kong is to marry a Hongkonger, which a significant number have successfully done. The attitude towards asylum seekers in Hong Kong has been changing in recent years, particularly among younger Hongkongers, who used to spurn African asylum seekers but over the past few years have come to welcome them as evidence that Hong Kong remains an international city. However, with the passage of the National Security Law in 2020, as well as a tightening of restrictions on asylum seekers, Hong Kong may be turning away from being an international city to becoming more Chinese. Given this uncertainty, it is unclear the extent to which Africans can consider Hong Kong as home in the future.



Additional Information


Gordon MATHEWS is a professor in anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and is one of the authors of The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global Marketplace (2017).

Recommended Citation

Mathews, G. (2021, October 29). Can Hong Kong be home for sub-Saharan African asylum seekers? [Video podcast]. Retrieved from