Families first

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 1997, 12:00am

All attempts to sort out the mess over the right of abode issue seem to end in more confusion. There is something badly amiss between the mainland and Hong Kong when opinions are divided about the best solution to the problem. Co-operation seems uneven, at best.

We have a situation where 6,000 extra one-way permits were issued across the border in 1996 without the knowledge of the Hong Kong Government. Now we are faced with an influx of thousands of children wishing to claim their legal right to live here. Yet, at the same time as immigration officers are trying to allow more youngsters into the SAR, there is a cut-back to compensate for the over-provision of permits last year. What a fiasco.

More time and effort is taken up trying to sort out the mess than would be required if our efficient civil service was handling the bulk of the work itself, which would be a far more satisfactory way of ensuring fairness. The system needs direction and transparency before it will have any credibility.

The present five-priority group system operated on the mainland needs to be revised. Why give priority to people coming in to care for elderly parents when the SAR has a system to allow old people to return home where they can live in greater comfort on a Hong Kong income? Can people claiming inheritance in Hong Kong have prior claims on the split families divided by the border? From a humane and practical standpoint, there is only one priority. As any sociologist knows, parents and children should be united. It is the best way to ensure youngsters have a secure home life, thus helping them settle and adapt. It will ease the strain on Hong Kong's services and enable fathers to be breadwinners, instead of being dependent on welfare payments.

Concern for separated wives comes a little late in the day. Many have been married for upwards of 15 years. They must have second claim because, for the sake of social stability, families come first.