Can Hongkongers who marry mainlanders adapt to life across the border?
Survey says differing political views contribute to tensions at home, while issues outside include different work styles and languages
Hongkongers who marry partners in mainland China find it harder to adapt to life across the border and a different political system, compared with mainlanders who marry residents in the city, a recent survey has found.
On Tuesday the Hong Kong Ideas Centre, a think tank founded in 2008 and chaired by pro-establishment businessman Fung Siu-por, presented the poll findings on 800 individuals in cross-border marriages.
The survey – the second of its kind done by the centre – was conducted in June and July. The sample pool involved 804 people, with 200 Hongkongers married and living on the mainland, and 200 mainlanders married and living in Hong Kong.
In general, the survey found that spouses married to Hongkongers have adapted well to a life after marriage. Aspects polled included new working styles, languages, living habits and interpersonal relationships.
However, on average, Hongkongers who married mainlanders saw less advancement when adapting to life across the border.
The survey employs an index to quantify the level of adaptability in individuals before and after marriage. It found that mainlanders are 20 per cent more adaptive after marriage, while the figure is 17 per cent for Hongkongers.
Both groups admitted that they found it difficult to embrace the political systems in their new environments.
For example, the survey cited a Hong Kong woman, 34, currently married and living in Shenzhen, who said she could not agree with views by her husband over political issues such as the pro-democracy Occupy movement in 2014.
While she sympathised with protesting students, her husband opposed the campaign and felt that mainland China’s control over Hong Kong was a given.
Another woman of the same age from Shenzhen, however, who moved over to be with her husband in Hong Kong, set a “talking ban” on her “radical democratic” husband on “sensitive days”, such as election periods in the city.
Her husband resented the 1997 return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule, but she was annoyed by the filibustering tactics of pan-democratic lawmakers in Hong Kong.
The survey also captured cases with more harmony at home over political views.
For example, a man, 30, from Shandong and living in Hong Kong with his wife, said he was touched by the courage and independent thinking of Occupy student activists, even though their actions “might not be wise”. He had once studied in Australia.
Anna Lai Wong Oi-ling, executive director of the think tank and leader of the research, said it was important for the families of couples involved in cross-border marriages to be more understanding as they could contribute to better integration of individuals despite social and political tensions.
“Hong Kong should respect and tolerate new immigrants from the mainland, and the Hong Kong government should provide more support to Hongkongers living on the mainland,” Lai said.
According to government statistics, from 1997 to 2016, there were 488,227 cross-border marriages amounting to 44 per cent of all marriages involving Hongkongers in this time period.