Mainland Chinese to test seven-year rule on qualification for Hong Kong housing

Denial of flat to mainlander who's lived in HK for 5 years to be challenged

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 11:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 6:02am

The government's welfare policies will face a new legal challenge when a mainland immigrant seeks a judicial review of a decision to deny her public housing because she has not lived in Hong Kong for seven years.

The unnamed 40-year-old is expected to make the application after the Court of Final Appeal ruled on Tuesday that a similar requirement preventing new arrivals from claiming Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) was unlawful.

The woman is working with the Article 35 Concern Group, which campaigns on legal matters. "We will win, as the requirement is unconstitutional," the group's Foo Wai-lok said.

The woman, who moved from Shenzhen five years ago, shares a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po with her daughter, four.

The fallout from Tuesday's social security ruling continued yesterday, with a former head of the government's think tank calling for talks between Hong Kong and Beijing on tightening controls over the one-way permits under which mainlanders can settle in the city.

"The government will be under huge pressure to tighten the policy for mainlanders migrating to Hong Kong," said Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of the Central Policy Unit. "But the power to make these decision lies with the central government. It will most definitely cause the government a lot of headaches."

Nelson Chow Wing-sun, a professor of social work at the University of Hong Kong, said Article 22 of the Basic Law granted the right to decide which mainlanders settled in Hong Kong to Beijing, and made it "virtually impossible" for Hong Kong to take decisions on one-way permits. But there was scope for negotiation on matters such as the number of permits issued and the criteria for giving them out.

The scheme was introduced in 1980 to allow families divided by the border to reunite. About 50,000 people a year migrate to Hong Kong under quotas granted under the scheme.

"In the past, Hongkongers who weren't well off would often ask their families on the mainland to refrain from coming down," Chow said. "The ruling could prompt more people who may not have the means to provide for their families to migrate down now. But as to how big this number will be, we won't know."

Chow said fewer than 10 per cent of mainland migrants claimed CSSA, a ratio only slightly higher than among locals.

The Society for Community Organisation, which worked with the plaintiff in the welfare case, said it received hate mail accusing it of "siding with mainlanders". At least three Facebook groups have been set up to protest against the ruling.