Basic Law 'allows for restrictions on residency'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2011, 12:00am


The Basic Law allows immigration laws to exclude groups of people - including domestic helpers - from becoming permanent residents, government lawyers argued yesterday.

On the second day of a landmark judicial review, the lawyers said the intent behind the Basic Law could be gauged from the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which authorised the legislature to make laws imposing controls on immigration.

David Pannick QC, for the government, told the Court of First Instance that the Basic Law allowed the Director of Immigration to deny domestic helpers the right of abode.

He said the 1984 declaration, which formed the basis for the drafting of the Basic Law, allowed for laws to regulate the entry, stay in and departure of anyone from the city.

Therefore, the provision of the Immigration Ordinance that denies foreign domestic helpers the right to be 'ordinarily resident' - and thus makes them ineligible to become permanent residents - could not be unconstitutional.

In their opening argument, lawyers for Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino who has lived in Hong Kong for 25 years, had argued that Section 2(4) of the Immigration Ordinance was unconstitutional as it added an extra hurdle to the requirements for residency under the Basic Law.

The government's lawyers denied the provision was discriminatory, because it was imposed regardless of nationality and was legislated for a 'perfectly legitimate aim'.

Pannick had argued that the fact domestic workers were required to return home every two years to maintain links there, and other requirements of their special conditions of stay, made the domestic helpers 'extraordinary residents'.

But Gladys Li SC, for the applicant, said such requirements were part of helpers' contracts of employment, rather than their conditions of stay.

'Does that make the residents extraordinary, because they have links with home?' Li asked, in reply to the argument over the requirement to return home every two years.

Li will continue her reply to the government's submission today.