Politics and PTSD: The case of Hong Kong BN(O) visa arrivals in the UK

Politics and PTSD: The case of Hong Kong BN(O) visa arrivals in the UK
Mark Chih-Wei Liang
This article adopts an ethnographic perspective to present the mental health situation of arrivals from Hong Kong (HK) to the UK on the British National (Overseas) – BN(O) – visa. In the months after the 2019–2020 HK protests, Western and Chinese media announced the onset of a mental health crisis. I discuss the construction of this crisis in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and disaster mental health, which translate the role of trauma from the clinical sphere into a marker of a moral economy. I also argue that the UK and the People's Republic of China classify populations according to ontological structures of distress for political gain. In this way, they participate in ‘damage-centred’ research, which regards BN(O) visa holders in the UK as victims without agency and subject to global players. By taking an anthropological stance on the debates surrounding this nascent immigrant group, I assert that PTSD is always political and that mental health integrates itself into larger goals Hongkongers have regarding their future educational, housing and employment prospects in the UK.

Publication date

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

Journal title, volume/issue number, page range

Anthropology Today, 38:5, 4-8






International Relations and Politics
Health and Medicine
Diasporas and Migration