Cultural Diversity in China : Vanishing Selves under Hong Kong’s UnifiedScreening Mechanism


Drawing on Erving Goffman’s analysis of total institutions and his concept of mortification of the self, the present article deals with the process of identity construction and identity loss among refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong. We argue that the slow pace of processing of political asylum applications as well as the harsh restrictions imposed on rights to work and the minimal welfare provisions for refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong operate as means of isolating them from the broader society. Another consequence of these restrictive conditions becomes manifest in the loss of identity experienced by those who have been stuck in Hong Kong for many years waiting for their applications to be processed. Being unable to preserve the sense of identity they had in their countries of origin, they find themselves deprived of the social and institutional resorts necessary to forge a new one. Keywords – Asylum seekers, Hong Kong, Erving Goffman, mortification of self