'Amend HK law to deny babies abode'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am


A mainland legal expert has called for 'creative methods' to address Hongkongers' disquiet about the granting of Hong Kong residency to babies born in the city to mainland parents.

Wang Zhenmin, the dean of law at Tsinghua University and a former member of the Basic Law Committee, said the issue could be addressed by amending local laws without seeking an interpretation from the National People's Congress.

However, Wang did not go into detail about how to achieve this, and did not say whether it would be practical to launch a judicial review.

'The problem should be dealt with through the city's own laws. The past interpretation of the law [in granting residency] was clear enough,' Wang said at the launch of a series of books on the Basic Law yesterday. 'Amending local legislation is a possible way.'

At the heart of the debate is a Court of Final Appeal ruling in 2001 that babies born in Hong Kong to mainland parents have right of abode regardless of their parents' residency status.

Wang did not say which law should be amended, nor the steps to be followed.

Some legal experts and lawmakers have suggested changing the Immigration Ordinance to deprive babies born to non-local parents of the right of abode. That would go against Basic Law and trigger a judicial review - giving a chance for the Court of Final Appeal to overturn its own 2001 ruling.

Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, dean of law at the University of Hong Kong, said the court might not overturn its 2001 ruling even if a new case was presented for a decision.

He said the court was right in 2001 to reject the idea - advocated by some people - that it should follow the reasoning of opinions issued in 1996 by the Preparatory Committee, since they were given after the Basic Law was promulgated.

'Hong Kong's population is ageing, and importing talents does not work,' Chan said. 'Why don't we consider training this readily available talent at an early stage?'