Feminist activism in Hong Kong

Authored by: Joseph M. K. Cho , Trevor Y. T. Ma , Lucetta Y. L. Kam

Routledge Handbook of East Asian Gender Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138959897
eBook ISBN: 9781315660523
Adobe ISBN:


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Since the late nineteenth century, Hong Kong had been ceded to Britain for over a hundred years. While the colonial experience of Hong Kong has contributed to its complicated political environment, the patriarchal ideology within the Chinese traditions still remained deeply embedded in the social fabric. The very first wave of women’s activism was primarily concerned with the legal status of women and how its lack perputuated their exploitation. They also filled in the gap in social welfare provision. In the 1970s, the implementation of nine-year compulsory education and restructuring of the economy facilitated the social mobility of women. The expansion of tertiary education also allows more room for feminist thoughts to take root across disciplines at universities. Approaching 1997, many feminist-identified women joined the cause for greater democracy. Yet, the discussion of democratisation was given a higher priority over women’s movement with feminist awareness. New women’s groups were formed in the 1980s to put women’s voice back and assert that feminist awareness matters. These women’s groups were the pioneers that brought feminist knowledge, awareness and agenda to local social movements and engaged in a broader range of social issues. Feminist activism in Hong Kong after 1997 has been developed against the backdrop of rapid political change. New issues and battlefields resulted from the changing dynamics of China–Hong Kong relation have pushed feminist activists to engage further in the overall political struggle of the city against tightened political control and a diminished space of grassroots activism. This chapter offers an overview of feminist activism in Hong Kong before and after 1997 and, in particular, focuses on the emerging issues and challenges in the aspects of cross-border politics, ethnicity and class.

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