The postwar decades saw Hong Kong experiencing repeated migration and refugee crises, originating both in mainland China and Vietnam. How were these crises approached by international organizations, and governed by international law, far from these structures’ then-European focus? Drawing on the presenter’s larger work on the history of global migration governance, this talk will address how Hong Kong’s refugee history can help illustrate a split in approaches to refugees and other migrants with reverberations felt to the present day. While both refugee and migration law and organizations initially focused on European refugees in Hong Kong, refugee systems were eventually able to pivot to tackle the broader Chinese refugee crisis. Yet migration governance maintained a divided focus, with its chief organization remaining legally concerned principally with European emigrants. As a consequence, it was only able to assist non-Europeans in “emergency” situations, with Vietnamese refugees cited as a primary example of success. The focus of both systems on refugees in emergencies, however, left lacunae in form of rights monitoring and assistance for regular migrants, and left many migrants scrambling to assert refugee status in ways that have intensified anti-refugee sentiment worldwide.
About the Speaker:
Christopher Szabla is a Global Academic Fellow at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law whose work focuses on international law, global history, borders, and migration. He holds degrees from Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Cornell University, where he received his PhD. His work is published by or forthcoming from outlets including the Berkeley Journal of International Law, Melbourne Journal of International Law, Law and History Review, and Oxford University Press, has received funding from organizations such as the Social Science Research Council, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and the Council for European Studies, and awards including the Morris Cohen Prize in Legal History from the American Association of Law Libraries and the Messenger-Chalmers Prize at Cornell. He has also been a visiting fellow with the Global Migration Centre of the Graduate Institute Geneva and is a member of the Emerging Scholars Network at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales. He has worked to assist refugees in both Cairo and in New York, where he was a practicing attorney.
The Law Society of Hong Kong has awarded this seminar 1.5 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points.