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  • Dec 25, 2014
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PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2012, 3:23am

Stemming inundation of Hong Kong overrides perceived loss of judicial autonomy

Michael Chugani says the sensitivities over HK's 'mainlander invasion' is stifling a much-needed public debate on the matter


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Something astonishing happened to me on Christmas Eve at Central MTR station at about lunchtime. I had to struggle to hear Cantonese. Most everyone in the packed station was speaking Putonghua. Later, I mentioned this phenomenon to my lunch companions - two pro-establishment legislators and a well-known political commentator. They smirked and jokingly said all the Hongkongers had fled town for the holidays and so the city had been "mainlandised" by a Christmas flood of compatriots.

Indeed it had. That same evening brought additional culture shock when disgruntled friends of mine had to compete for taxis with mainlanders near Lan Kwai Fong.

In case it hasn't hit you yet, Hong Kong is undergoing a stark transformation. It hit my sister right away when she visited from the US recently. Her husband found it startling every time he stepped out of his Tsim Sha Tsui hotel into the throngs of mainlanders. We often hear worried locals say they don't want Hong Kong to become like just another Chinese city. But that is exactly what is happening.

So many sensitivities surround the issue of mainlanders in Hong Kong that we, as a society, find it hard to have an honest and open debate about it. I feel uncomfortable speaking the truth about the matter. But discuss it we must. Hong Kong is bursting at the seams. Let the numbers speak for themselves. Last year 62.3 million foreign tourists visited the US. Hong Kong had 28 million mainlanders alone, and the number is steadily rising. That is unsustainable.

A public outcry forced Chief Executive C.Y. Leung to act against parallel goods traders and easier visa rules for millions more mainlanders. But he has since gone silent on the issue. To his credit, he has cracked down on the flood of mainland women giving birth here so their babies can acquire residency rights. And his administration has asked the Court of Final Appeal to seek clarification from the National People's Congress Standing Committee on abode rights for mainland babies and foreign domestic helpers under the Basic Law.

The abode rights issue is different from the flood of mainland tourists, but equally pressing. Leung's administrative steps to block mainlanders having babies here is open to legal challenge because our highest court ruled in 2001 that such babies did qualify for abode rights. And our highest court will rule in February whether foreign maids who have been here for more than seven years also qualify for permanent residency.

Opposition legislators and many in the legal community are furious with the government for asking the final appeal court to refer the matter to Beijing, arguing this robs the court of its autonomy. But what is so wrong about seeking clarification on a matter as grave as Hong Kong being possibly flooded by foreign maids and mainland babies born here? The NPC does have the right to clarify and interpret the Basic Law. What is in Hong Kong's best interest - preventing the flood or defending at all costs a perceived but unproven loss of judicial autonomy on interpreting the Basic Law?

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com


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This article is now closed to comments

Agree with Culture Vulture. Constitutional crises arise out of weak governmental institutions and/or incompetent politicians. Take your pick.
How long have HKers been flooding Guangdong cities such as Dongguan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Zhongshan by shopping/clubbing/partying/whoring on the weekends? How long have they been dumping off their elderly relatives to live in estates with low paid mainland "ayis" to watch over them? Only seems fair, no?
Typical. Once an immigrant gets what he/she wants, they do all they can to block others from following in their footsteps. To paraphrase the great orator Rodney King - Can't we all just get along?
Is your Rodney King the Rodney Glen King, whose beating in 1991 by the Los Angeles police was captured on video and led to riots in that city after the officers were acquitted? The Rodney King, who was found dead on June 17, 2012, at age 47, in a swimming pool at his home in Rialto, California? The Rodney King, whose life was a roller coaster of drug and alcohol abuse, multiple arrests and unwanted celebrity status? The Rodney King, who pleaded for calm during the L.A. riots that killed more than 55 people and destroyed more than 600 buildings, with a phrase that became part of American culture: “Can we all get along?”
On the night when the beating occurred, March 3, 1991, this Rodney King had been out on parole from a 1989 robbery conviction. He was driving about 100 miles per hour when he and two passengers were pulled over by the Los Angeles police. After he attempted to escape on foot — afraid, he would later say, that he would be in violation of his parole — he was caught by officers. The 6-foot-3 Mr. King was struck with batons and kicked dozens of times, and hit with Tasers.
Can this Rodney King be your “great orator”?
Dai Muff
What's wrong is that it can be handled by administrative measures with the help of the mainland, and that weakening Hong Kong's judicial independence is an end game and not a side effect. Otherwise those administrative measures WOULD be used.
Freedom is a great attraction, perhaps the strongest human-magnet yet discovered. In many ways, British Hong Kong had more freedom than England and America combined. China Hong Kong continues to be free, brave, proud, wonderful, and highly attractive. Yes, radically reduce the freedoms in Hong Kong and the line of would-be immigrants should grow shorter. Eliminate the freedoms in Hong Kong and the line of would-be immigrants will equal the line of would-be immigrants wanting to enter the mainland.


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