Five years on, abode ruling still rankles

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 June, 2004, 12:00am

Several hundred right-of-abode protesters gathered at Chater Garden last night for a candle-light vigil to mark the fifth anniversary of the interpretation of the Basic Law by the central government.

The June 26, 1999, interpretation caused more than 7,000 people to lose their right of abode because their parents were not Hong Kong permanent residents when they were born.

'We are here to express our request to the government to give right of abode to the [abode] seekers,' said Father Franco Mella.

'We just want all of the sons and daughters of all Hong Kong citizens to have family unions.'

Asked whether people had begun to forget the issue, Father Mella - who completed a four-day fast outside the Central Government Offices in Central last night - remained optimistic.

'Although it seems to have less media coverage than it used to, we still have many people with us today. I believe if the government is not going to solve this problem, the whole of society will suffer.'

Father Mella is fasting to draw attention to the 'plight' of seven abode seekers jailed over the fatal Immigration Tower fire in Wan Chai four years ago.

He also had his head shaved to highlight the cause of the abode seekers.

The arson attack led to the death of senior immigration officer Leung Kam-kwong, 42, and 26-year-old abode seeker Lam Siu-sing. The seven abode seekers were jailed for 12 to 14 years for manslaughter and arson.

To bring attention to their cause, every year Father Mella goes on a hunger strike one day for every year they have spent in prison. 'I hope all of the seven abode seekers will be released,' he said.

A Court of Final Appeal hearing on their cases will be held in December.