No reason to cut quota of mainland immigrants: Lai Tung-kwok
Secretary for security Lai Tung-kwok has rejected calls to cut the daily quota of immigrants from the mainland
There is "no justification" to change the 150-a-day quota for mainlanders to come and live with their families in Hong Kong or the means of choosing them, the security minister says.
The remarks by Lai Tung-kwok come amid calls for Hong Kong to take hold of the right to screen the applicants, a power that rests with the mainland authorities.
Critics also blame the people given the one-way permits for the ever-growing demands on housing and social facilities.
"I must point out that the approval arrangements for the one-way permits have a sound constitutional basis," Lai said in an article in yesterday's Sing Tao Daily newspaper.
He said the scheme was "not a project to import talents", but allowed mainlanders' to come "in an orderly manner".
From the handover in 1997 to last year, 762,044 mainlanders have settled in Hong Kong, making up about a tenth of the city's present population.
While there are calls for reducing the quota, Lai said he also heard the voices of people seeking family reunions.
The government's estimate on future population growth did take into account these newcomers, Lai said. He pledged to ensure mainland authorities knew of the city's social demands.
Commenting on Lai's remarks, Roy Tam Hoi-pong, an advocate for preserving Hong Kong culture, said it was a good thing for society to focus on population figures rather than purely on housing demand.
"The senior government officials should calm down and think about ways to solve the housing problems from the perspective of population policies," said Tam, president of the group Green Sense.
He said the city's housing shortage could be eased - and the need for reclamations and the development of country parks minimised - if the 150-a-day quota was reduced.
Better planning on housing, transport and welfare could also be achieved.
Tam rejected Lai's assertion that mainland authorities should retain the right to approve applications, saying family reunions would still be possible if the power rested with Hong Kong.