The two legislators who published a controversial advertisement last month denied having discriminated against immigrants.
Pan-democrats Gary Fan Kwok-wai and Claudia Mo Man-ching said their newspaper advertisement calling for changes to one-way permits for mainlanders wanting to settle in Hong Kong aimed to “get to the root of the housing problem”.
But Jackie Hung Ling-yu and Tsang Koon-wing of a group promoting the reunion of mainland-Hong Kong families, the Coalition for Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights, said the wording of the advertisement constituted discrimination and would spread unease among immigrants.
“We agree with getting back the autonomy of vetting the single-way permits, but any policy initiation amounts to reducing the 150-case daily quota of the permits makes us worried,” said Hung. “It will slow down the reunion of mainland-Hong Kong families.”
The advertisement published in several Chinese-language newspapers - including one in Taiwan - sparked criticism from groups helping immigrants. They said the advertisement victimised immigrants, many of whom have waited for at least four years to reunite with their family members in the city.
“Cutting people from the source [of immigration] will help us to get to the bottom of the housing problem,” said Fan at an RTHK programme on Monday morning, which descended to a chaotic debate between the legislators and the group representatives.
“We need to draw up a comprehensive population policy to tackle housing issues. We have no say in vetting single-way permits now,” added Fan, of the NeoDemocrats.
While Hung said the Equal Opportunities Commission chief Dr York Chow had warned lawmakers not to make “irresponsible comments”, Tsang said that many immigrants have told the group they felt they were attacked by the advertisement.
But Mo, of the Civic Party, said that the advertisement intended no discrimination. “Did York Chow read the advertisement before making that comment?” she asked.