Clarifying post-1997 residency status rules
I refer to the letter headlined 'Uncertain over family's future residency status' (South China Morning Post, April 15). I would like to explain the residential status of British citizens.
Under the existing Immigration Ordinance, Hong Kong permanent residents have the right of abode in Hong Kong. The following are Hong Kong permanent residents: (a) Persons wholly or partly of Chinese race who have at any time been ordinarily resident in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years.
(b) British Dependent Territories citizens who have a connection with Hong Kong (eg, by birth, naturalisation or registration), or who have been married to such a citizen.
(c) Commonwealth citizens who immediately before January 1, 1983 had the right to land in Hong Kong by virtue of being a Hong Kong belonger (eg, being a British subject by birth, naturalisation of registration in Hong Kong, or who was married to, or was the child of, such a British subject).
British citizens who do not belong to any of these categories do not have the right of abode in Hong Kong. However, if they have at any time been resident in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years, they will have the right to land.
Both the right of abode and right to land confer upon the holder the right to land in Hong Kong, the right not to have imposed upon him any condition of stay, and the right not to have a removal order made against him. The right of abode carries with it the right not to have a deportation order made.
Under Article 24 of the Basic Law, a number of categories of persons shall be permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and have the right of abode in the region from July 1, 1997. The following (under Article 24 (2)(4) of the Basic Law) is one of the categories: 'Persons not of Chinese nationality who have entered Hong Kong with valid travel documents, have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period for not less than seven years and have taken Hong Kong as their place of permanent residence before or after the establishment of the HKSAR.' British citizens will be the same as other foreign nationals. They will have the right of abode in Hong Kong if they satisfy the conditions of Article 24 (2)(4) of the Basic Law.
A British citizen who is on a limit of stay in Hong Kong is in no different a position from other foreign, and Chinese, nationals who are on a limit of stay. There is no reason to doubt the validity of permission of stay given by the Director of Immigration just because the permission straddles July 1, 1997. Control over the incoming and outgoing of Hong Kong residents is an everyday administrative function of the Government which will not be affected by the change of sovereignty.
P Y CHENG for Director of Immigration