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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

The Disappearance of Yu Man-Hon: the search for justice in post-1997 Hong Kong

With Professor Carol Jones (University of Wolverhampton)

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective, special series on Justice in Comparative Perspective

Date: Thursday 3 December 2009, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Professor Stephan Feuchtwang (Taiwan Research Programme)


In August 2000, a teenage boy with the mental age of two ran away from his mother at Yau Ma Tei underground station in Hong Kong. Somehow, he ended up across the border in Shenzhen, where Chinese border guards sent him back to the Hong Kong side. Here, he was detained and questioned. Concluding from his dress and speech that he could not possibly be a Hong Konger, Immigration Officials sent him back to China. He has not been seen since.

Fears about the border - and those who cross it - have featured centrally in Hong Kong popular culture and in the business of the law since 1997. Yu Man-hon's story is one of the many cautionary tales in the repertoire of Hong Kong culture about what happens to those who cross the border into China. The border is a liminal space of risk and danger, a twilight zone in which people disappear, are kidnapped, and murdered. China is the source of crime, corruption, and contamination against which the Hong Kong/China border acts as a membrane of protection, separating the 'city of law' from a 'lawless land'. With the relaxation of the physical border after 1997, new legal and cultural defences have been erected to keep out the imagined Other.

Over the almost ten years since Man-hon's disappearance, his mother, Mrs Yu, has never given up searching for her son. A poor but virtuous mother, her search for justice stands in stark contrast to the response she has received from the authorities in Hong Kong and an indifferent 'Motherland'. Her plight, and that of her son, reveals much about ordinary people's hopes, fears and experience of law, justice and power in post-1997 Hong Kong.

About the Speaker

Professor Carol Jones is based at the University of Wolverhampton's School of Legal Studies, and she previously held a Chair in Law at the University of Glamorgan. She has worked in Hong Kong, and has been a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. Prof Jones is an expert in socio-legal studies, and her first book, Expert Witnesses: Science, Medicine and the Practice of Law (1994) won the Hart prize for best book in Socio-Legal Studies. She has since become a specialist in East Asia, and she is the co-author of Criminal Justice in Hong Kong (2007). She is currently writing a book about law and order in China.