I'll be left in limbo if sent back after 20 years, says father

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 12:00am

A 51-year-old abode seeker is appealing to immigration officials to let him stay, saying he cannot return to the mainland after living in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.

Mr Cheung, who did not want to give his full name, said sending him back to the mainland would leave him in limbo as he doubted if his Guangzhou residency, cancelled during the Cultural Revolution, could be traced.

'It's impossible for me to return to the mainland. What would you expect me to do there? I would be left in limbo,' he said.

The abode seeker, who is married with an 18-year-old daughter, first sneaked into Hong Kong via Macau in 1974 to join his late father, who was a Hong Kong citizen. He applied for right of abode in 1979 under the 'touch-base' policy that allowed mainland migrants who made it into urban areas to remain.

But his case was investigated until early 1981 when he was removed to Macau from where he was sent back to the mainland.

Mr Cheung said the Immigration Department owed him right of abode after excluding him from an amnesty granted to illegal immigrants in 1980 when the authorities announced the end of the touch-base policy.

'The mainlanders were given three days to report to the Immigration Department. I called the department to check if I needed to register again. But they said they had my record already. But I was removed in 1981.'

Mr Cheung said the immigration officers told him he had to be removed as he had residency in Macau, where Mr Cheung said his father bought him an identity card with $200 as part of the arrangement for him to come to Hong Kong. He sneaked back to Hong Kong again in late 1981 to take care of his father's possessions after he died.

Mr Cheung does decoration work, but without an identity card he said business was difficult. He could not formally marry his wife, a Hong Kong resident, until last year when he was allowed to register the marriage with his bail document.

'I've missed two chances. The first in 1980 and then in 1997 when many abode seekers made a claim and were allowed to stay later. I didn't surrender earlier as I didn't have the courage,' he said.

Mr Cheung surrendered to the Immigration Department and claimed right of abode in 2000. He said immigration officers searched his home after his surrender for proof of his stay in Hong Kong and took away dozens of photographs and documents issued in the territory and which bore his name.

One of the photographs removed showed Mr Cheung standing in front of the old Hong Kong Bank head office in 1980.

An Immigration Department spokesman declined to comment on individual cases.