We're happy to remain, say boat people

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 12:00am

Security and the chance to earn money made Hong Kong an attractive place, boat people said yesterday.

They were reacting to a decision by the Executive Council to grant them temporary identity cards in May and close Pillar Point camp.

'If the Government gives me an ID card, of course I'll take it,' said Chan Man-yin, 39, an ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese.

After arriving more than 10 years ago, the construction worker said he had adapted to life in the SAR.

'Hong Kong is better than other places. If you work hard, there's a job here for you. I just hope the ID card can help me to find a job more easily,' he said.

Mr Nguyen, 45, a Vietnamese national who arrived 19 years ago, was worried about his family's livelihood when the centre closed.

'My job as a casual worker on the construction site is insecure. I fear my family might have to sleep under a flyover.' He said he could not pay the $390 monthly school fees for his five-year-old daughter.

Dao Thi Hien, 41, a single mother with two children, said they had laid roots here.

'Hong Kong is a better place than Vietnam. Here we have human rights and we have the rule of law.' Ms Dao said all she wanted was for her daughters aged three and five to have the same rights that other Hong Kong children enjoyed.

The family is among about 300 people living on welfare from the Caritas organisation. They receive $900 a week.

Officials estimate that if the same number applied for government benefits it would amount to $9.2 million a year. And if all the 1,400 people living in the open camp applied for public assistance, it would cost taxpayers $50 million.

They would only be entitled to claim for one year after residence status was granted.