Discretionary maternal citizenship: state hegemony and resistance of single marriage migrant mothers from mainland China to Hong Kong

Tuen Yi CHIU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article contributes to the scholarship on marriage migration and citizenship by drawing attention to an under-studied group of single marriage migrant mothers who are widowed, divorced, or separated from their citizen-husbands. It examines the ways in which nation-states regulate the dissolution of cross-border marriages and allocation of citizenship rights to single marriage migrant mothers. Drawing on the experiences of 25 mainland Chinese single marriage migrant mothers, this article unravels the dynamic process of citizenship negotiation between top-down state hegemony and single marriage migrant mothers’ bottom-up resistance to the exclusionary immigration system in Hong Kong by claiming maternal citizenship through state discretion. As the article illuminates how discretion has been used as a strategic mechanism by both the state and single marriage migrant mothers to negotiate the boundaries and substance of citizenship, it offers insights into how the family becomes a critical site where citizenship is experienced, negotiated, and contested.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-954
Number of pages19
JournalCitizenship Studies
Issue number7
Early online date24 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank Brenda Yeoh, Sohoon Yi, and the reviewers for their thoughtful comments on the earlier drafts of this article, as well as the respondents in this project for sharing their valuable insights and experiences. This project is supported by the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, the Hong Kong Research Grant Council (grant number GRF2120461) and LU Research Seed Fund 102373.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Cross-border marriage migration
  • maternal citizenship
  • 'marrytocracy-based' immigration system
  • state discretion
  • marital dissolution
  • intergenerational precarity


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