Legal fight may not be over

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 12:00am

A new wave of court cases could be launched against the Government by abode seekers barred from staying in Hong Kong after last Thursday's ruling by the Court of Final Appeal, lawyers say.

Lawyers from Pam Baker and Co issued advice yesterday to 5,114 claimants in last week's case.

The court decided most of them had to go home while some could have their cases reconsidered by the Government.

Migrants who may be allowed to stay by the Director of Immigration include those who had previously received letters from the Legal Aid Department that dissuaded them from launching litigation.

Those claimants - believed to number about 400 - were advised that if the Director of Immigration rejected their pleas, they could then consider returning to the courts to seek a judicial review.

A representative of the abode seekers, Fu Ka-wai, said: 'I hope the Government will allow us to stay to avoid the start of another round of litigation.'

Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee warned yesterday that force might be used to remove claimants who stayed after the grace period ended on March 31.

'If necessary, we will use minimum force, but again I appeal to these people to stay calm and to be rational,' the security chief said.

Mrs Ip also said she believed the community supported the removal of the migrants.

'The community opposes influxes and relaxing immigration rules, particularly when the economy is down. On this subject, we believe we have the support of the people.'

The Government has promised not to begin removal action until the end of March and says it will work with the claimants' lawyers on cases that need reconsideration under last week's ruling.

About 180 losing claimants had indicated by yesterday that they would return to the mainland before the end of March. Eighty-three have already left.