Ho-tak - no home and all alone for Christmas

HAI Ho-tak, the seven-year-old boy thrown out of Hong Kong because his parents were unable to prove he was born in the territory, faces Christmas without a family or a home.

He has been living in a dingy Guangzhou flat with eight virtual strangers since being deported from Hong Kong in May. But the block is to be redeveloped and his adopted 'family' will not be taking him with them to their new home.

'The house owner wants the flat back for redevelopment,' said Zhao Huazong, the woman who has been looking after Ho-tak and whom he calls 'auntie'.

Her husband is an old friend of Ho-tak's father, but she said it was not possible for them to look after the boy any longer.

'We'll probably move to the suburbs because of the cheaper rent there, but it will be too dangerous for Ho-tak to go to school by himself,' she said.

At present, Ho-tak walks to school by himself. The 18-block journey requires him to cross two busy intersections before he enters the doors of his school.

'It's dangerous to let him go to school by himself now, but we have no choice,' said Mrs Zhao.

'My husband and I work at that time and my three children go to school at the same time. If we move to the suburbs, we really can't take care of him.' The boy's father, Hai Keung-sing, is a Hong Kong citizen, which gives his children right of abode in Hong Kong after 1997, according to the Basic Law.

But this is only possible with proof of birth in Hong Kong and Ho-tak's parents were unable to provide this. The Immigration Department became aware of the case when his parents tried to place him in a school.

The decision to expel Ho-tak came under fire in Geneva last month when the United Nation's Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said the deportation violated international covenants.

The committee urged the Government to reconsider, but last night the administration said that changing its policy would merely open the floodgates to illegal immigration.

Tomorrow, members of the Legislative Council's constitutional affairs panel will discuss the case, while next month those members who went to the Geneva conference hope to meet the Governor to press Ho-tak's case.

'If Chris Patten really cares about children's rights, he can be the Santa Claus that makes Ho-tak's dream come true,' said Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisations.

Meanwhile, Ho-tak last week spent his seventh birthday in Guangzhou without his parents or siblings . . . but even that is better than the bleak future that now awaits him.