Abstract

In 1994, after a year of intense activism by indigenous women and their urban supporters, indigenous women in the New Territories of Hong Kong were legally allowed to inherit land for the first time. In pushing for legislative change, the female inheritance movement adopted key ideas—gender equality, human rights and a critique of patriarchy—from a global vocabulary of feminism and human rights. This article examines this rights frame to understand how, if at all, activists modified international conceptions of discrimination and rights to fit Hong Kong. Overall, the ideology was not fundamentally altered or adapted, but indigenized by local activists through the use of local symbols. More deep-rooted change was not necessary for two reasons: First, in the pre-handover moment, rights arguments derived political currency from their association with an international community. Also, critical movement participants, here termed translators, helped encompass the indigenous women’s individual kinship grievances within a broader movement based on rights.

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