Girl, 8, asks to join helpers' court fight

Bid for mainlanders' daughter to represent the children who could be affected by case

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 4:14am

A girl who was born and lives in Hong Kong but has mainland parents will find out if she can join domestic helpers in their right-of-abode case when it opens in the Court of Final Appeal on Tuesday, according to a social welfare group.

The eight-year-old's mother, Li Yinxian, applied successfully for legal aid on Wednesday. Li lives in Hong Kong and her daughter also lives here, with her grandparents.

She submitted an application on behalf of her daughter to the Court of Final Appeal yesterday, according to the Society for Community Organisation (Soco), which has been advising her.

The Bar Association last week urged the government to appoint a counsel to represent the estimated 100,000 locally born children with mainland parents when the domestic helpers' case came to court, arguing that they would be affected by the issues of residency raised.

The Department of Justice is expected to ask the Court of Final Appeal, as part of the case, to ask Beijing to "clarify" the meaning of its 1999 interpretation of Article 24 of the Basic Law, which deals with permanent residency.

It wants a "clarification" from the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) in light of a surge in the number of mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong - where their children qualify for residency - and challenges by domestic helpers to rules barring them from qualifying for permanent residency.

The Bar Association's call sounded alarm bells for Li, who immediately sought help regarding her daughter's position.

Li said in the writ: "I have been advised by my legal advisers and verily believe that the Court of Final Appeal's decision on whether to accede to the request by the Secretary for Justice ... will have far-reaching repercussions on the right of abode of [children born locally to mainlanders].

"I was advised that there is a possibility of an interpretation by the Standing Committee concerning the binding effect of the NPCSC's 1999 interpretation ... which may have a retrospective effect on the right of abode of [such children]."

Ho Hei-wah, director of Soco, an equal opportunities charity, said: "If such children do not have any representation in the current case, legal justice would be gravely compromised."

Soco believed an amendment to the Basic Law provision, rather than an interpretation, would better safeguard Hong Kong's rule of law, Ho added.