Party decries Liberals' attack over residency

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2011, 12:00am


Civic Party chiefs yesterday admitted rivals' attacks on its stance over permanent residency for domestic helpers had plunged the party into its biggest crisis.

Speaking a day after the Liberal Party ran critical newspaper advertisments, Civic Party chairman Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said while such 'provocative attacks' were unprecedented, parties fanning the public flames should know the debate was on whether helpers had the right to apply for right of abode, not whether they should enjoy permanent residency.

'This is the most serious political attack the party has encountered since its establishment [in 2006], like a typhoon number 10,' said Chan, a political scientist at Baptist University. 'Although I have no crystal ball on hand, I can tell we will face a dire scenario in the coming district council elections [in November].'

The Liberals' advert on Wednesday challenged the Civic Party to spell out its next step if judges rule that domestic helpers who have lived in the city for seven years or more are entitled to right of abode.

Five Filipinos are bringing judicial reviews of the Immigration Ordinance clause denying helpers permanent residency. Among them is Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino helper who has worked in the city for 25 years. The High Court is to hear her case on August 22 and Gladys Li, a barrister and Civic Party founder, is representing Vallejos.

Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit called on the government to clarify aspects of the immigration policy.

'Indeed Hong Kong has its own policy barriers in terms of granting permanent residency, but the government has been silent on the issue - whether maids are winning the right of abode automatically if they win the court case, or merely the right to apply [for it],' said Leong, a legislator and barrister. Hesaid the party had written to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung.

The Chief Executive's Office confirmed it received the letter and 'has passed the letter to the concerned bureau for follow-up' action.

The Department of Justice said it was not appropriate to discuss legal arguments outside the court during ongoing legal proceedings.

The policy barriers Leong mentioned referred to the four conditions stated in the Immigration Ordinance, including whether the applicant for permanent residency has habitual residence in Hong Kong and whether his principal family members are in Hong Kong.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, former secretary for security and an opponent of the domestic helpers' bid, said the conditions were loose and would not prevent domestic helpers claiming residency if the courts ruled in their favour. But Leong said that would be equivalent to suggesting the government failed to do its job.

The conditions provided sufficient ammunition for the Immigration Director to stop domestic workers claiming right of abode, he said.