Request to apply for legal aid denied

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 12:00am

Right-of-abode seekers facing removal next week had their request for legal aid to fund a damages case against the Government rejected yesterday.

They were seeking compensa tion for being deprived of the right to stay in Hong Kong. About 500 claimants swamped the Legal Aid Department in Admiralty, requesting financial assistance to help them to pursue claims against the administration.

The claimants wanted damages for being denied abode after the Government sought a reinterpretation of the Basic Law to overturn a landmark ruling in their favour on January 29, 1999, by the Court of Final Appeal.

Some were also seeking compensation on the grounds that immigration officers had refused to let them declare their abode claims before January 29, 1999, leaving them with no chance to benefit from a concession policy which granted right of abode to some mainlanders.

Their request yesterday was rejected after a one-hour meeting. A spokeswoman for the Legal Aid Department said: 'We've considered their cases, but we can't provide further help.'

A project officer for the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, Jackie Hung Ling-yu, who is helping the abode seekers, said they would repeat their request at the department today.

A total of 3,554 abode seekers have said they wish to return to the mainland before the end of the grace period on Sunday. Of these, 1,677 have already left.

A claimant who is unmarried and more than four months' pregnant and fears being forced to have an abortion on her return to China yesterday had her bail extended to April 24.

The woman said the immigration officer who extended her bail did not mention her plea to stay on humanitarian grounds but warned her of the consequences if she did not leave. She said she wanted to stay at least until she had given birth as she feared the mainland authorities would ask her to have an abortion or deny the baby a residential document.