Organized Panel Session
During the 20th century, massive numbers of people moved across borders in China and Southeast Asia because of war, political struggles, and social conflict. In this panel, we provide a comparative lens and present four distinct case studies when Asian polities were on the frontlines over who could gain “refugee” status. Jews, White Russians, Overseas Chinese, Vietnamese, and East Timorese possessed significant religious, racial, and ideological differences, and yet all were part of diasporic communities and all sought refuge in this era. Taking a historical perspective, our panel delves into the paradoxes and contradictions which existed in Asian responses to refugee crises and which continue to resonate in our contemporary moment.
Meredith Oyen examines the effect of decolonization on both long-term European residents and overseas Chinese “foreigners” in 1940s Shanghai. Ria Sunga’s work on White Russians in the Philippines from 1949 to 1953, analyzes the interplay between Philippine refugee policy and its treatment of domestic minority populations. Jana Lipman studies the detention of Vietnamese migrants in Hong Kong in the 1990s, arguing how Vietnamese activism within the camps and in the diaspora challenged Hong Kong’s repatriation campaigns. Vannessa Hearman discusses campaigns in Australia on behalf of East Timorese asylum seekers who had escaped the Indonesian occupation of their country. Cathy Schlund-Vials will chair, and Yuk Wah Chan will act as discussant. Collectively, these scholars illustrate how refugee populations demonstrated conflicts between displacement and haven, humanitarianism and conflict, and the local and international in China and Southeast Asia.