Migrants with right of abode should be asked to register so a more realistic estimate of their number can be obtained, legislators were told yesterday.
Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, lecturer in the Polytechnic University's Department of Applied Social Studies, said officials had been 'irresponsible' in releasing the 1.67 million figure. And they had been 'fear-mongering' about the impact the migrants would bring.
According to Dr Cheung's rough estimate, based on the Government's interim survey results, the number of those eligible for right of abode and likely to come to Hong Kong would be about 950,000.
Dr Cheung, speaking to a special meeting of Legco's House Committee, said there could be a wide margin of error in the Government's official figures.
'It's an irresponsible attitude for various government departments to make some downright unreasonable assumptions based on the figure of 1.67 million.
'We cannot base it on guesses. For important decisions like this, we need good data and good thinking.' Dr Cheung said the Government had failed to discount an estimated 135,400 of first-generation children born of de facto marriages.
These people were eligible before the Court of Final Appeal ruling in January.
He said the number of first-generation children born out of registered marriages should be 384,600 instead of 520,000 as cited.
To obtain a more accurate picture, he proposed the Government begin registering those who wanted their children to come to Hong Kong.
'It could be through many channels. It might even help those who are now overseas to register their children in this process, thereby having a much more accurate number on hand,' he said.
But Commissioner for Census and Statistics Frederick Ho Wing-huen cast doubt on the feasibility of such a mechanism, because some people might not want to go through the process.
Tung Chee-hwa will meet major political parties tomorrow before making a decision on the abode issue.