Lingering doubt on 'voluntary' deportees

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 October, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 October, 2000, 12:00am

Right-of-abode seekers vowed yesterday to press for the return of 12 claimants with pending court cases if their deportation earlier this week proves to have been involuntary.

The Right of Abode Committee said 12 of 61 people immigration officers arrested on Monday and Tuesday were among the 3,000 litigants represented by lawyer Edward Chan Man-hon.

Committee spokesman Fu Ka-wai said: 'We'll get in touch with the 12 to see if they were removed voluntarily or not. If they say the removal is against their wishes and they want to come back, we'll help fight for that.'

While the Immigration Department's record showed at least one of the 12 litigants signed to return voluntarily, Ms Fu said about five called the committee to complain about the removal action after they were deported.

The mother of one of the 12 claimants contacted yesterday said her 25-year-old son was removed against his wishes without warning when he tried to renew his recognisance document on Monday. 'He called back on Tuesday morning before he was deported, saying he would have to be repatriated immediately. He was so confused as he was not prepared to be sent back,' his mother said.

Mr Chan said he would take follow-up action once the committee established what happened. 'If all of them say they returned voluntarily, I have nothing to say,' he said. But he admitted that pressing for the return of those removed involuntarily might not be easy as it would involve both the SAR and mainland governments.

Mr Chan's 3,000 clients are either waiting for the hearing for the application of a judicial review or the appeal against the rejection of the granting of leave for a judicial review. An Immigration Department's spokesman said Mr Chan's clients had not been given any blanket undertaking that they could stay until the court case finished.

About another 5,000 abode-seekers, whose claims are represented by the cases of Ng Siu-tung and Sin Hoi-chu, have been given such an undertaking. But only 3,000 of them remain in Hong Kong. The spokesman said 21 of the 61 arrested on Monday and Tuesday were repatriated voluntarily and removal orders served on the 33 who refused. Seven children were granted bail.

Ms Fu said the Security Bureau contacted the group yesterday to try to ease their worries by stating that the Government was not enforcing a new policy of removing them before conclusion of the legal proceedings. She said while she was not optimistic that they would win the legal battle, she said the abode-seekers should at least be allowed to stay till all the court cases were finished. 'I hope we'll be treated fairly until the last minute.'

Immigration officers arrested 29 more abode-seekers yesterday. Five were freed on bail while others were either deported voluntarily or issued with removal orders.