Acquired permanent residency isn't a right but a privilege that one must qualify for

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


Albert Cheng King-hon criticises legislator Starry Lee Wai-king's estimate of the financial cost of granting foreign domestic helpers permanent residency because, at HK$62.1 billion, it is scaring people and not because it is unreliable ('Wild talk over abode rights for maids reveals our prejudice', August 3).

Could he come up with a cost estimate that is reliable and not disturbing, based on the fact that more than 100,000 helpers have the seven years' residence that allegedly satisfies the requirement for permanent residency?

He misconstrues that permanent residency is open to all who have lived here for seven years, without regard to the explicit requirement in Basic Law Article 24(4) of 'valid' (purpose-specific) entry documents, 'ordinary' (not just continuous) residence and evidence of having 'taken Hong Kong as their place of permanent residence'.

His reference to Article 25, which provides that 'all Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law', is irrelevant.

He should realise, for example, that equality before the law doesn't mean that he as a layman could represent litigants and enjoy a right of audience in the courts equal to that of a lawyer. This is despite his ability to read the law, his penchant for extemporisation and the fact that he could certainly plead better than some barristers.

At common law, acquired permanent residency is a qualification and not a right based on de facto residence for a certain length of time. Foreign students will not become permanent US residents by paying tuition fees and moonlighting to support the American economy for many years. Applicants for permanent residency in Britain must pass a test that assesses their English-language proficiency and their knowledge of British culture.

Permanent residency is ultimately a national immigration policy decision and not a legalistic local issue.

The judiciary may decline jurisdiction or defer to the central government a decision about granting permanent residency in one go to well over 100,000 foreign maids.

Anyone seriously concerned about equal rights should have asked for the opening up of our domestic-helper jobs to mainland workers.

Hong Kong is hopeless if its 'Asia's world city' reputation depends on granting foreign maids permanent residency.

Rosanna Yam, Mid-Levels