Abode still in the balance for 357

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 April, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 April, 2002, 12:00am

The fate of 357 of the more than 5,000 abode seekers involved in this year's Court of Final Appeal ruling still hangs in the balance, the court heard yesterday.

Solicitor Robert Brook, whose law firm represents most of the mainlanders, told the court 4,192 claimants' cases had been dismissed, while 402 other applicants had withdrawn their claims, mainly because they had received one-way permits or had died.

A total of 124 abode seekers had so far won their appeals for abode based on the January 10 ruling.

Mr Brook appeared before Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi yesterday to report on the progress of the 5,000 cases arising from the January ruling.

The judge has previously expressed concern about the abode seekers' status, wanting the matter to be resolved as soon as possible.

'My concern is that everybody should know where they stand. Either they are in or out. It's as simple as that,' he said yesterday.

Barrister Joseph Fok, for the Director of Immigration, told the court the department needed time to decide on the disputed cases, which Mr Justice Chan ordered be done by April 19.

The January 10 ruling found that the abode seekers were subject to Beijing's reinterpretation, which overturned the top court's January 1999 ruling in favour of the claimants. But in this year's ruling, the court also said a government concession allowing certain applicants the right of abode should also cover applicants who made a claim for legal aid - as long as the Director of Immigration was notified of their claims before the 1999 ruling.

Outside court, Mr Brook said 53 of his clients qualified for right of abode because their cases fell into the latter category, while five were entitled to stay because they arrived before the handover and were born after one of their parents became a permanent resident.

He said 66 applicants benefited from the January judgment because of their legitimate expectation based on replies from the Legal Aid Department or letters from the Security Bureau in respect of their claims.

However, Mr Brook said the 66 claimants had so far only had their removal orders quashed and the Immigration Department was still considering whether they qualified for right of abode.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has dismissed 68 claims for right of abode involving applicants aged between 12 and 70.

Mr Justice Peter Cheung Chak-yau and Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling ruled that none of the claimants fulfilled the requirement set down in the January 10 judgment.

But the two judges expressed sympathy for two applicants and urged the director to reconsider their claims.

One was Wu Tak-kei, 21, who suffers from schizophrenia. The other was Cheung Siu-on, 12, whose mother had asked the court to allow him to stay while his application for one-way permit was processed by the mainland. She said her daughter died in June 2000.