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  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 2:07am
NewsHong Kong

Top court to give landmark judgment on right of abode issues

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 5:30am

Hong Kong's top court will hand down a landmark judgment today with far-reaching implications on right-of-abode issues facing foreign domestic helpers and children born in the city to mainlanders.

The Court of Final Appeal's ruling will decide whether foreign domestic helpers have the right to apply for permanent residency after living in the city for seven years.

The judges will also decide whether to accede to the government's controversial request to ask Beijing to clarify its 1999 interpretation of the Basic Law's Article 24, which sets out those qualified for permanent residency in Hong Kong.

The request is perceived as the government's attempt to resolve in one go the right-of-abode issues concerning both domestic helpers and children born here to mainland parents. Critics say it threatens Hong Kong's judicial autonomy.

Two law professors say that if the top court decides not to seek Beijing's interpretation, the government should not on its own approach the central government to seek one.

"The government may too readily seek help from Beijing when it is not required," said Michael Davis, of the University of Hong Kong. "Generally … the law within a system operates independently."

Davis warned the government to step cautiously, saying its decision to achieve an expedient goal could come at the expense of the rule of law.

Fellow HKU professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting shared his view, saying Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying "must bear a high political cost" if he decided to do so.

While the judgment is not out yet, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said on Friday that the city had a "fearless" judiciary that acted "independently".

Last year, 26,715 babies - about a third of all those born here - were children of mainland women whose husbands were non-Hong Kong residents.

This was before the policy to ban pregnant mainlanders with non-local husbands from booking public hospitals' delivery wards took effect on January 1.

But since the zero-birth quota kicked in, the number of such pregnant women rushing for emergency delivery here had dropped to just 22 and 34 cases in the first two months of this year.

Meanwhile, 1,048 foreign domestic helpers have applied for permanent identity cards since the Court of First Instance's September 2011 ruling that an immigration law preventing them from applying for the right of abode was unconstitutional. Some 125,000 have lived in the city for at least seven years.


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This article is now closed to comments

I hope the judiciary looks at the grass root feeling of the people of Hong Kong when they make their decisions. It would place too great a social strain on the people of Hong Kong if they granted right of abode to domestic helpers. If the ruling allows domestic helpers to apply for the right of abode there will be 125,000 applicants right off the bat applying with more being added weekly. At least 50,000 would apply for government housing in the next 2 years to escape the poverty of Philippines and the repression of Indonesia. They would bring over their husbands (50,000) and Children (50,000). This would require 50,000 government houses, 50 schools (1,000 children per school) and medium turn it will add 60,000 people to welfare.
Domestic helpers will compete with waitresses, cleaners and other low level people for jobs causing further unemployment and social unrest. I cannot see any possible scenario where granting abode helps HK. My biggest worry is the judiciary in their expensive provided housing in mid-levels ignore the needs of the people in HK because they feel they are above caring.
One item that is disturbing is that there has been no public discussion regarding the right of abode to determine what the views are of the people of HK are. I believe the judiciary has just gone behind their closed doors to make this decision.
I worry they just chit chat with their tycoon friends (who want higher house prices) and their Guilo buddies who really don't care about grass root people in HK.
They say the judiciary is and open to take on big issues. But threat is not their job their job is to do what is right for the people of HK. They should have details of different views and should have impact studies (both government and independent) where they can then make an informed discussion.
For such a big issue I have seen little discussion and I would go as far as to say they are not independent and are totally open to the opinions of they Tycoons around them and do not listen to the people of HK. there should be a rule that 80% of the judges in HK live in Kowloon / NT to be able to better understand the people of HK and not hide in their ivory towers.


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