Abode seekers' concept of family reunion must be more realistic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2002, 12:00am

I refer to the letter from Gianni Criveller, Franco Mella and Pietro Paolo Dossi, on the right-of-abode seekers (South China Morning Post, February 5).

The Government's request to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for an interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Basic Law regarding the right-of-abode children of Hong Kong permanent residents born in the mainland, is entirely legal and permissible under the Basic Law. Your correspondents' description of this mechanism as a 'judicial anomaly' reflects their unwillingness to accept this constitutional reality. Their remarks on the Judiciary are grossly unfair to the judges who function independently every day.

The key question is whether children born to Hong Kong permanent residents before the parents acquired the right of abode have the right of abode in Hong Kong. The legislative intent of the Basic Law is such that children only acquire the right of abode if they are born after their parents acquired that right. This mode of passing on the right of abode by descent is in keeping with international practice. Which country or territory in the world permits an immigrant to pass on his or her equivalent of the right of abode to children born before the immigrant acquired that right?

Any person not enjoying the right to live in a particular country or territory has to seek permission to enter for settlement, whether for family reunion or other reasons. Most countries permit family reunion of children under the age of 21 or 18. Older children have to apply to enter for settlement on their own merits. Hong Kong and mainland authorities are already being more generous in allowing older children to enter Hong Kong under the existing one-way permit system to take care of their parents.

I have read all representations from right-of-abode seekers. Many of them can join queues on the mainland for settlement in Hong Kong - as children born out of wedlock of Hong Kong permanent residents; as adopted children of Hong Kong permanent residents; as children looking after dependent parents in Hong Kong, or as spouses of Hong Kong residents. While some may not be eligible to apply under any existing categories of the mainland exit control system, we have undertaken to take this up with mainland authorities.

Present-day travel between Hong Kong and the mainland is convenient. Abode seekers can reunite with their families on the mainland, or look after their parents by frequent visits. Few Hong Kong residents have the luxury of living close to their parents all their lives. I urge abode seekers to adopt a more modern and realistic concept of family reunion.


Secretary for Security