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Back to Hong Kong: Return migration or transnational sojourn? - page 3 / 33





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decision”. But despite this heavy sacrifice and commitment to a long-

term political project in China, he was not abandoning his transnational

lifeline. “I still consider myself a Canadian and one day I will retire in

Canada and apply for my citizenship again.” (York 2004: A1)

We argue in this paper that Mr. Cheng’s bi-national sentiment and

transnational longing are shared by compatriots in Hong Kong, bringing

a new twist to the ‘myth of return’ among international migrants. Hong

Kong and Canada are stations between which strategic switching occurs

within an extended social field at discrete stages in the life cycle. Among

some migrants such time-space co-ordination is meticulously calibrated.

Ocean crossings and re-crossings

Return migration has provided a sidebar to the historic

immigration narrative of departure, arrival, and assimilation. The weight

of the assimilation narrative, especially in the United States, has tended

to obscure the significance of the return trip home. In his examination of

the Round Trip to America, Mark Wyman (1993: 4) has suggested that in

the period of mass immigration from 1880-1930, “Returned immigrants

rejected America and, it seems, American scholars have rejected them”.

While the population data are flawed and discontinuous, the best

estimates suggest that during this half-century as many as a quarter to a

third of arrivals to the United States re-crossed the Atlantic Ocean to

return home. Significantly, rates were lower for the older migration

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