Lai-wah awakes to find herself home at last

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 January, 1999, 12:00am

A nine-year-old girl at the centre of the right of abode case fell asleep halfway through yesterday's judgment but then told of her delight at being allowed to stay in Hong Kong.

Cheung Lai-wah, one of four child migrants who brought the landmark case, said: 'I fell asleep halfway through . . . I didn't know what was happening until people stood up and bowed and started cheering.' Lai-wah quietly took her seat in the front row of the public gallery but within minutes of the judgment being passed, she was transformed into a bubbly, talkative girl.

'I'm so happy that I can stay. I'm glad I can now become a proper Hong Kong person. I was so worried about it that I couldn't sleep last night. If I'd had to go back, I'd rather die.' Lai-wah has no relatives on the mainland. Her mother died a day after she was born and her father, Cheung Miu-ching, 61, has looked after her since she arrived in 1995.

'Since I came to Hong Kong, the happiest thing has been that I've been able to go to school and make lots of friends,' Lai-wah said.

'I don't have any other relatives. I have three best friends in school, but they are not just my friends - they are like my sisters.' The Primary Two student said her teachers and classmates had been supportive and said she would phone to tell them the good news when she got home.

'Now I have to study hard and be a good person when I grow up,' she said.

Her father said he would take Lai-wah out to dinner to celebrate with a few friends.

'I feel justice has finally been done. Now we can relax. The pressure has been enormous all these months,' he said.

Mr Cheung said he had to take Lai-wah to report to the Immigration Department each month.

Had the judgment gone the other way, unemployed Mr Cheung said he was prepared to take Lai-wah to live somewhere else.

'I'm already old. Now all I wish is for her to study hard, get good grades so that she can look after herself when she grows up,' he said.